Often during the Advent season with all the shopping, baking, gift wrapping, cleaning, and preparing for guests, etc… I feel that we forget what this season is truly all about. During this season we are called to prepare the way in our hearts for the coming of our Savior but we often get too distracted instead by preparing our shopping agenda.
Some Christians may be surprised to find that from as early as the late 3rd century if not earlier, Advent was seen as a ‘mini Lent’; a time to prepare ourselves body and soul for the Nativity of the Lord. Christians were not only encouraged but expected to give alms to the poor and fast to prepare for Jesus’ coming to the earth. As John the Baptist encouraged his people to repent for their sins through baptism to make way for the Messiah. So are we called to put aside the commercialism of the pre-Christmas season and take time to make way in our lives and souls for the awesome beauty that is the nativity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Humility is another important aspect or theme of this season that some Christians seem to forget. We get upset about receiving the wrong gift or not receiving one at all after giving someone else a gift; YouTube is laden with spoiled children throwing temper tantrums because they didn’t receive exactly what they wanted. The true gift we receive this season John the Baptist tells us he is, “not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The true gift we receive during Christmas is the man who gives up his life to save us from our sins, not the newest video game or latest and greatest smartphone.
So as this season in the US is preceded by a time to give thanks for all the things we do have, maybe we need to carry over that feeling of thanks and humility into the Advent season. Even if fasting or long hours in prayer is not your thing, try to focus on giving to those who genuinely need help and maybe volunteer at the local shelter or try to attend every Sunday in Advent and see where you local parish could use your help as for us in the religious communities this can often be the busiest times of the year and help from parishioners is always a blessing.
During this season I am often reminded of one of my favorite carols, “Good King Wenceslas”, in which a king sees a homeless man gathering fuel for a fire, when he asks his squire where the man lives he decides to bring the man food and wine and logs to help the poor man. It is a beautiful story but the part that always rings out loudest to me during this season is, “therefore Christian men be sure wealth or rank possessing, he who now shall bless the poor shall himself find blessings.” Sometimes it is hard in a commercially over-saturated culture like that of the USA to ‘stop and smell the roses’ or stop in to the church around the corner and light a candle and spend some time in prayer but as it was important for John to prepare the way for his people so long ago, I encourage you to take some time this Advent to prepare your heart and soul to experience the beauty and majesty of the birth of our Lord.
During this holy time of Advent help us to prepare ourselves to experience the true meaning of this season as John the Baptist your faithful servant prepared his people.
We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.