It seems like Advent suddenly appeared. Here we are finishing Thanksgiving and we are already preparing for Christmas. But Advent presents a few things that we need to accomplish before we can truly embrace the Christmas spirit. 

Although Advent has a penitential feel, it differs from Lent. Lent is an acknowledgment of our sins, our need for redemption. It is a debt which has enslaved us, and only the Son of God could ransom us from our destruction. The passion is the fulfillment of the mission.

Advent is the time of preparation; it is calling us to prepare a place for the Lord who is coming into the world. It is the celebration of the incarnation; God the Father sends his Son into the world. This is a manifestation of God’s wonder and awe.

The penitential aspect of Advent is represented in the figure of John the Baptist who calls us to make straight the path to prepare the way of the Lord. Of course, a part of our preparation spiritually is to examine our lives and rid ourselves of the obstacles, namely sin, that would prevent us from receiving Jesus. 

In a way, Advent is like preparing to receive a guest into our home. We present our very best. We clean our home. We prepare some special treats and we even place some flowers in the room. All these things are done as a way to show how much we appreciate the guest. But to prepare well, we must take our time. 

Advent is the church telling us to slow down. This might be the most difficult part of Advent. We live in a world that seems to be in a state of perpetual motion. The liturgical season of Advent helps us approach Christmas with a thoughtful understanding of what is happening. All of history is moving to this moment, everything that was lost in the sin of Adam and Eve would now be restored in the willingness of Jesus to become one with us. Think about it: we are the envy of the angels because the Son of God took flesh and dwells with us. So we can’t just rush through this season.

Imagine sprinting through the Sistine Chapel or jogging through St. Peter’s in Rome. Anyone who appreciates art or beauty, not to mention the sacredness of the place, would think you were insane. You must be still. You need to allow the beauty to capture you, to elevate your spirit and realize the sense of the sacred. 

The need for vigilance is often associated with Advent. We are called to be watchful. There is no doubt Christ has come into the world. He has come in history and time. But Christ will come again; this is his promise and he will be celebrated in the liturgical time at Christmas.

We must understand that we need to anticipate his return. He has come, he is coming and he will come again. We are different because of the Incarnation. Our dignity has been established by the love of God manifest in the presence of his Son as one like us. 

In our consumer mentality, the weeks before Christmas are filled with thoughts of special gifts for relatives and friends. Some will spend hours trying to create that right fit or the perfect match.

During the weeks of Advent, we should also think of those unique gifts we might present to the child Jesus. There is nothing material that we could present to the Lord that would have any meaning, but it’s the spiritual that he desires.

Therefore, allow me to make a few suggestions: 

First, prepare to receive the Lord by receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in order to clean your spiritual home and to receive that loving guest.

Second, demonstrate your love for him by doing something good for your brothers and sisters. Donate gifts to the Catholic Charities drive, articles to St. Vincent de Paul, St. Ben’s, House of Peace or projects established by your parish.

Third, add a little extra prayer to your daily routine. It could be attending an occasional weekday Mass, saying a rosary, making a visit to an adoration chapel or just adding an Our Father, Hail Mary or Glory Be every morning or evening. 

Believe me, your life will reflect an appreciation for Christmas that will challenge the commercialization that accompanies the season. 

Advent is a time of preparing for the multiple comings of our Lord into our lives. Yet there is still one more coming that all of us must be prepared to encounter. At a time we will least expect it, God will call us out of this world.

The Lord warns us in a parable. Just like the servants are entrusted with the master’s treasures, we will be required to give an accounting for how we used the treasures he gave us. This will probably happen before the second coming of our Lord Jesus.

The world does not like to be reminded of its mortality and of its responsibility before God. It makes many uncomfortable. Maybe it should, because it could help us to take Advent seriously and to prepare to receive him.