Preparing for Christ this Advent

Preparing for Christ this Advent

by Karen O’Keefe

Advent is a season of longing and preparation.  The question is, are we longing and preparing for the right things?  Admittedly, I do long for the taste of homemade Christmas cookies, to see the bright, cheerful lights, and to hear my favorite Christmas carols each year.  But I also recognize that without a heart that is spiritually prepared, these can be very fleeting pleasures.  With a heart united to the Lord, it is possible to savor the delights of the season and to experience Advent and Christmas as time infused with joy and peace.

As Vincentians, our calling to spiritually prepare is amplified.  We are called to receive Christ’s love so that we can then pour out His love to our neighbors.  So many Conferences increase their activities to bless neighbors this time of year through beautiful Angel Trees, toy drives for children, and providing boxes of special foods to make festive family meals.  Our Vincentian organizing, shopping, wrapping, decorating, and baking are important preparations!  For the neighbors we serve, we are the face of Christ.  We see their material needs and accompanying pain and respond in the most beautiful ways!  Are we also attuned to the spiritual needs of our neighbors, and do we look for opportunities to share with them the true source of joy and peace?  Can there be opportunities to share how we are preparing both materially and spiritually for the coming of Jesus Christ?

As Catholics, particularly during Advent, we long to be united with Christ.  Our hearts are made for Him, to be loved unconditionally and to love in return.  He alone is the source of all that is good.  In Him alone can we find the lasting joy and peace we crave so ardently.  At Christmas, we celebrate with grateful hearts God’s revelation of Himself through the coming of Jesus Christ into our world.  While we experience God now and can glimpse the perfection that awaits us eternally, we know that God’s fullness will not be revealed during this life.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux talked about the 3 comings of Jesus which we prepare for during Advent.  Our Lord’s first coming is in the flesh and in weakness; another coming is hidden as souls see within themselves, receive rest and consolation, and are saved. His last coming will be in glory and majesty, and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.” 

  1. Jesus’s First coming; His Birth in Bethlehem.  God became Man!  We hear it so often, but have we taken the time to contemplate what this actually means?  God, creator of everything in the universe, took on human flesh and poverty.  He took on our frailty, failings, and sin for the sake of our redemption.  God, Wisdom and Strength incarnate, took the form of a humble baby!  Let us reflect and celebrate with praise and thanksgiving the goodness of God in the event of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ!
  2. Daily Grace: God is present with us each moment throughout our life.  He sustains, loves, guides, and protects us while quietly revealing Himself in the sacraments, prayer, and our daily situations.  Have we basked in the grace He is pouring into our life today?  Do we take the time daily to look for, acknowledge, and thank God for the many small ways he is loving us?  Have we taken the time today to honestly share our heart with the Lord, our struggles, our positive and negative emotions?  God wants to know, heal, and redeem all that is within us.  We have only to turn to Him.  Let’s not delay!
  3. The Final Coming:  “I am with you always, until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)  One day, the Earth, sun, and stars will cease to exist, but our human souls will live beyond.  We will even receive our perfected physical bodies back at that end of time!  God has prepared an eternal place for each of us in paradise.  Are we like the wise virgins who have their lamps lit and are ready to meet our bridegroom at any time?  (Matthew 25: 1-28).  At the time of our death, we will meet Jesus Christ face to face as our Just Judge.  We know too that at some point, an unknown hour, Jesus will certainly return in His full power, glory and might!  Let us take time this Advent to ponder these sacred mysteries.

As you prepare this Advent for the coming of Jesus, may Christ be at the center of your preparations and longings.  May you experience deep and abiding peace and joy this Christmas!