Welcome to the season of Advent and our yearly invitation to awaken and become more aware of the things that really matter. In other words, it’s time to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. This liturgical season may be the most difficult to celebrate because it is often overshadowed by pre-Christmas sales and celebrations. It’s almost impossible to prepare for something that you are already celebrating.
Perseverance and waiting are not our culture’s strong suits. Our lives are convenient, and the idea of wandering in a desert for 40 years or allowing God to be the creator and us to be the creatures seems to be a less than advantageous position for any of us to take.
What would it take for us to slow down, pay attention and live in this moment? How can we become more conscious of what is happening right around us? God has given us the gift of our senses so that we can take in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touches that allow us to interact with God’s creation. God has also given us our minds and hearts, in which we communicate with Him through our thoughts, insights, inspirations and dedication. But a person has to actually be conscious of the world in order to do that.
Shall we try again to live this season of Advent, or should we just unconsciously kick into the things we always do during the season? How can we become more conscious in each moment? Prayer is almost always the automatic answer for those of us who are trying to live a holy life, but what does that actually mean? Will we take some time each day to be able to have that intimate conversation with God? Will we carve out some time to concentrate and dedicate so that our minds and hearts are like the prepared soil that will receive the word of God? Will we take some time to get outside of our antiseptic indoor surroundings and sense the beauty of God’s creation?
Advent is a short season crowded out by busyness. I’m sure that your particular parish is offering opportunities and practices that will enhance your awakening and preparedness. You might have an Advent tree or some other opportunity to give to those who might be struggling right now. Will you take part in that? Your parish may have an opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, participate in a special musical or vocal presentation, or you may have opportunities to volunteer at a local shelter or through your St. Vincent de Paul Society. Will you consciously embrace the opportunity to awaken this Advent?
Some of us will remain numb and victims of our own habitual behavior because we really don’t want to face the reality of our lives. We are afraid to look at what is actually happening and the choices that we’re making. We are afraid to have hope because we’ve been disappointed so much in life. We’re afraid to resurrect and believe in God’s promises to us because of past disappointments. I invite you in this Advent season to have the courage to truly become awakened to the possibilities of God’s love in your life. If you have been away from your worshiping community for some time, now is the time to reconnect and experience the beauty of God’s love for you and the power that it could happen in your life. In the same way that Mary and Joseph took up the invitation to be the place where the Word of God would become flesh, we can trust that when God invites us into hope, God is trustworthy in that invitation. Be not afraid to awaken to your reality and to allow God to touch you, heal you and lead you into deeper and more abundant life. Have courage! Be not afraid!
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.