It seems that even before the last piece of leftover turkey is digested and the taste of the pumpkin pie disappears from our mouths, someone is already putting up Christmas decorations and the department stores are pushing Christmas sales. We don’t even have time to take a breath, to savor the last feast and immediately the next holiday celebration is upon us.
The liturgical season of Advent reminds us to slow down, take stock of our lives and prepare. There are four weeks before Christmas and we are called to use this time wisely in order to ready ourselves for the reception of the mystery of Christ becoming one with humankind, the incarnation. Yet, how can we appreciate the mystery if we don’t give ourselves the time to reflect, to meditate on what this incarnation means to our spiritual lives?
Preparation is 90 percent of a successful celebration. If you don’t believe me, just ask any bride preparing to celebrate her wedding. Most brides I know go into great detail with mementoes of the moments the couple met, pictures of the bride and groom as children, and decorations for guests’ tables adorned with symbols of the new married life. This is all done to bring family and friends into their relationship. It takes time to prepare, but in the end, family and friends are introduced to the newly married couple. They understand the reason for the commitment and the dreams that the two share.
There is a certain rhythm to life and the liturgical season plugs into that rhythm. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’” (524).
On the first Sunday of Advent we were reminded to be vigilant. The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. How do you prepare for the unexpected?
We do this by exploring the presence of the Lord in everyone and in everything that we encounter. During the remainder of this first week, let us commit ourselves to see the Lord in those who surround us. We increase our prayer life, read sacred Scripture and attend Mass, for these actions heighten our awareness of the holy.
On the second Sunday of Advent the voice of John the Baptizer calls in the desert. Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. In order to make straight the path for the Lord into our lives, we must take an account of our sinfulness. During this second week of Advent we need the sacrament of reconciliation. A true spiritual life takes into consideration an examination of the failures to live the way the Lord has called us to live and to resolve to do better. God’s grace in the sacrament of reconciliation prepares us for the unexpected.
On the third Sunday of Advent the question is posed: Are you the one who is to come? Recognizing that Jesus is the Redeemer, the Messiah, we are called to follow him. Jesus comes into the world to re-establish our relationship with the Father. We become God the Father’s adopted sons and daughters through his Son Jesus Christ. He brings this Good News to all of us. During the third week of Advent we consider ways we can share the love of God with our brothers and sisters. Can we take the time to serve those in need, devote time to a soup kitchen or a clothing drive? Jesus Christ hears the cry of the poor for we remember he became poor for us. We look for him in those that need.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent we celebrate the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah, “Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel which means ‘God is with us.’” During the fourth week of Advent we reflect on our dependency upon God, how much we need one another, how God has so generously placed family and friends in our lives to share in our joys and struggles.
We realize that God is there with us to strengthen us to accomplish our mission in the world. A sense of gratitude should dominate our prayer during this week. We are thankful for a God who so loves us. When he comes again, we will meet him with joy.
Advent is a time to prepare, so take the time that is necessary to meet the unexpected and to celebrate the incredible fact that God loves us!