Often as I drive through the streets of Cleveland, I imagine what this great city was like in its “Golden Age”, which, like many cities of the industrial Northeast and Midwest, seems to be sometime in the late 1940s to about 1960 (at least from an economic point of view). The factories and steel mills, the storefront churches and neighborhood parks must really have been active. Now, great swaths of open lots and abandoned buildings remain as kinds of monuments to that era. But such is the fate of all human communities: there is growth, there is decline, there is recovery, there is redefining and innovation.
In a similar way, Advent invites us each year to imagine the “Golden Age” of the birth of Jesus. In my prayers and views of Christmas decorations such as cheap decorative lights and glowing Nativity scenes, I try to imagine Bethlehem in Year Zero, the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4-7). A longing can, and should, enter here, whereby we become, as St. Josemaria liked to say, another character in the gospel scenes.
The great thing, however, is that the “Golden Age” of the birth of Jesus really hasn’t ended or passed us by. Through our prayer and penances, and above all through grace, we spiritually enter into the real world of Jesus, Joseph and Mary. The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity has become flesh, and still dwells among us (cfr. Jn 1:14). His humanity as well as his divinity are always with us in Sacred Scripture, the Sacraments (especially Holy Communion) as well as the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. So, in this way, we really don’t have to long for a distant time or place. Look for the “Golden Age of Jesus” in your life, in your house, in your work, in your friendships, in your family, in your joys and sorrows… You will find it! As Jesus declared in some of his last words on this earth, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt 28:20).
David Bowie on Soul Train sings his classic ode to Nostalgia “Golden Years”: