Preparing our hearts and minds for authentic Christmas is challenging. With how much our culture promotes consumerism, Santa, decorating trees, and relabeling everything “holiday,” it can be hard to get into the Advent, rather than Christmas, spirit.
This coming Sunday’s reading remind us of our need to pay attention, and what our goal ultimately is: attaining heaven for ourselves, our spouse and children, and our fellow man. No amount of tree ornaments, wreaths, or toys can truly invite us to experience the joyful anticipation of our Savior’s birth and increase our faith.
This isn’t to say wreaths, ornaments, and toys shouldn’t be a part of our preparations and celebration. Of course they can! They can lift your mood and remind you of the season. But to truly use Advent as an opportunity to grow spiritually, we have to look outside the culture.
One way to do this is to read the Sunday readings. It is wise to do so every week, but especially in Advent, it’s nice to read, reflect, and pray about the readings we are to hear the upcoming Sunday, and think of ways to apply it to our lives.
This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. On the heels of Thanksgiving, this year it sneaks up on us. So, here is fair warning: It’s coming this Sunday! Break out your Advent wreath and read this coming Sunday’s readings here
There were two points in the readings that stood out to me, one from the second reading, and the other from the Gospel (excerpts taken from the link above from the USCCB):
1.”Brothers and sisters:
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all,
just as we have for you,
so as to strengthen your hearts,
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.”
2. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.”
In light of the tragedies going on around the world, especially in Paris, Beirut, Syria, and Mali (among so many other places), so many Americans have experienced the fear and anxieties of their peers over possible ISIS attacks and over the potential for terrorists to slip into the nation amidst the thousands of Syrian refugees. These readings seem to call us to cast aside fear and remind us of our obligation to love our fellow man to such a level as to be completely blameless in holiness. When we stand at judgement, will we have to atone for, or be lifted by, our actions towards those around us, whether friend, stranger, or enemy. This demands us to be mindful of our eternal soul when deciding to respond to those around us.But hitting even closer to home, we are called in the Gospel to avoid becoming “drowsy from…the anxieties of daily life.” Carousing and drunkenness don’t speak to most of us, but I’m betting we all experience anxieties coming between us and our relationship with our Lord, and cause us to focus on today, rather than our life after death. Every day, I feel the depth of how full life is, with housework, raising small children, being
on time a little late for appointments, connecting with my spouse at the end of the day, and the list goes on. There have been days I have forgotten to pray. There have been days where I only offered prayers that requested something of God. There have been days where I have forgotten to give thanks and praise for the enormous blessings He has bestowed upon me. But we are called to be aware, not complacent. We are called to use those anxieties to increase our faith and focus on Jesus, not to descend into despair or apathy.
And so we move forward with Advent, preparing and praying for coming of our Savior while we prepare for the celebration of His birth. May we take the readings our wise Church has chosen for this Sunday and apply it to our lives. Love our fellow man. Lean away from the temptation to be consumed by anxieties. Maybe volunteer at a food pantry, donate for a Christmas present drive, shovel snow for your elderly neighbor, or smile and offer help to an immigrant. When life gets very busy, schedule in prayer to ensure you don’t miss it, and make sure to thank our Lord for His abundant blessings. Try to find God in the anxiety. But mostly, be mindful and rejoice!
For some great ideas for how to celebrate Advent, check out this
Catholic Sistas post.
May your Advent season be blessed!