The prayers, Scriptures and celebrations of the Eucharist this Advent season will focus on preparation for the coming of Jesus. That includes a remembrance of His birth in Bethlehem, His coming into our lives each and every day and His coming again at the end of time. What are we anticipating and how open are we to the promise of His coming into our lives?
If we expect that He is going to come and save us from ourselves, we are moving in the wrong direction. Jesus expects us to be ready as we anticipate His coming. He certainly can’t undo the consequences of our free choices: That is something we have to live with. There is no magic wand that will be exercised over the terrible choices that we make. We are being asked right at this moment to start choosing the things that prepare us, our families and the world for the coming of Jesus today and at the end of time.
There is a lot of sentimentality attached to Christmas. There’s a baby in a crib and a mother and father who love Him. There’s the tug on the heart that nobody welcomed them into a home so that the birth could happen in a more comfortable place. All of that is true. But let’s not get stuck in sentimentality and instead truly become ready for the coming of Jesus. What choices are we making today? I think we need to start by looking at what we are doing with our time and energy. Are we doing what is godly? Are we giving great examples for other people to believe and hope? Are we getting rid of the excess and unnecessary burdens of possessions so that there is room in our lives for Jesus?
Instead of acting out of fear, try to imagine what it would be like if we stood before God. All of us have some things about our lives that we don’t want Jesus to see, but He already knows those and He loves us in the midst of that. But what are we doing today so that when we stand before the face of God, we are incredibly excited to hear Him say: Well done, good and faithful servant.
This is going to be a very quick Advent. The fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. So in effect, we have three weeks of Advent, which will have all kinds of Christmas celebrations crushed into it. Is there a way to make the focus of our Christmas celebrations more than just consuming more food, drinking more drinks and accumulating more gifts? Is there a way to look forward to those Christmas celebrations so that whatever we do together ends up being something we’d be very proud of as we face God? Is there something we could do together that would bring about greater good in the world than what we normally experience in our daily lives?
So many opportunities are made available to us during the season of Advent. We have opportunities to give to those most in need. There will be opportunities to celebrate the sacraments, including the sacrament of reconciliation. There will be extra opportunities to pray more often, to read Scripture more often, and to take part in the daily reflection booklets that are offered in most parishes and communities.
If we are preparing for the coming of Jesus, let’s not do that on our own timetable. Let’s put some urgency into our choices, not out of fear, but out of joyful expectation. What will we do so that our lives will allow us to joyfully anticipate the second coming of Jesus and be so attentive that we notice when He comes into our lives today?
Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters