Here we are, Reader, the beginning of the second week of Advent. By my count, Christmas is just a little over two weeks away. Crazy how time flies, no? This week, we learn about John the Baptist preaching in the desert. He...
Here we are, Reader, the beginning of the second week of Advent. By my count, Christmas is just a little over two weeks away. Crazy how time flies, no?
This week, we learn about John the Baptist preaching in the desert. He was trying to get people to sit up and pay attention, to ‘prepare the way of the Lord.’ As we already know, Advent’s a time of preparation. But preparation for what, exactly? We are preparing ourselves to usher in the Kingdom of God. We are called to make our hearts each a home for our Beloved Lord in which to dwell. He Who was born without a home and place to rest, we are called to make ourselves available to Him to give Him exactly that.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), it’s pretty clear:
When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s First Coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His Second Coming. By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’
– CCC 524
Now, I don’t know about you, Reader, but when I have super-important-to-me guests coming over, I like to tidy up my place a little bit. I love to make sure people are as comfortable as possible, that my home is warm and inviting to anyone who’d like to stop in for a little while and visit with me. As an introvert, I don’t really have this happen very often, because people know to text me before they just pop over, and they know, too, that I’m not one who’s overly thrilled about having guests all the time, either. It isn’t just for me to have a chance to tidy up, but it’s also a chance for me to prepare myself for what maybe on the other side of my front door, waiting to come in and settle in for however long the duration of the visit.
Our Beloved Lord is no different. I love this idea of preparing my home for Him to come in and stay with me. Not only my home, but my heart. When I was growing up, we weren’t taught much about this… and what this means. We were taught that Christmas isn’t about presents, but it’s about family. But… that’s always where it ended. We weren’t taught that it was about the Presence, we also weren’t taught that ‘family’ wasn’t just limited to two parents, some siblings (in my case, I have three brothers. Two older that my younger brother and I didn’t grow up with, one younger that I grew up with), maybe some grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins (in my case… my brothers and I have a whole mess of aunts, uncles and cousins on our mothers’ sides and their father’s side). I can recall many a holiday gathering where my immediate family and my mother’s siblings and their spouses and children would all just swarm together at the beehive that was my grandparents’ home and we’d catch up on things we’d missed in each other’s lives throughout the year. We cousins would get a chance to once again reconnect and get to know each other whilst the adults did the same.
I can recall helping on more than one of those holiday occasions helping out with the preparations for said gatherings. The deep clean that my Grandma would expect us kids to get in and do. Now, Grandma kept a very clean home. ‘Neat as a pin,’ as the saying goes. But looking back, I suspect she knew more than we kids understood about the deeper meaning of Christmas. It just wasn’t really ingrained much in us kids, because of our religion (Mormon) didn’t talk about that part much.
Fast-forward a couple decades later, and now it’s my turn to ‘prepare for the coming of the Lord.’ In a couple of weeks, like many families, my own home will have guests over for a nice dinner, some fun conversation, maybe even a few games of cards and a few rounds of jokes and hopefully, God willing, laughter in abundance.
Not unlike the holidays I grew up with.
This is how we ‘prepare for the Lord.’ Our Beloved Lord wants us to know love. He wants to feel our love for Him as much as He expresses to us, as best we are able to convey back to Him. And how do we do this? There are a number of different ways. In one of the Gospels, Jesus is pretty direct about how to go about this:
‘...I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited me. … Amen, I say to you - whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
– Matthew 25.35-36, 40
‘All men were called to the same end: God Himself. There is a certain resemblance between the unity of the Divine Persons and the fraternity that men are to establish among themselves in truth and love. Love of neighbour is inseparable from love for God. The human person needs to live in society. Society is not for him an extraneous addition but a requirement of his nature. Through the exchange with others, mutual service and dialogue with his brethren, man develops his potential; he thus responds to his vocation.’
– CCC 1878-79
We minister to those who are in need. I’m not talking just buying a warm drink for a homeless person or volunteering at a charity shop. While those things are good, too, I’m talking about if you know someone who’s alone for the holidays, you should extend an invitation to them to come over and enjoy the holiday with you. Remember, our Lord did not have a place to be for His First Christmas. ‘No room at the inn,’ the Holy Family kept hearing. Our spiritual Dad, St Joseph, was able to make a deal with an inn keeper and find shelter in a local stable for himself, our Mama, and our Beloved Jesus:
‘Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest. The Church never tires of singing the glory of this night:
The Virgin today brings into the world the Eternal
And the earth offers a cave to the Inaccessible.
And the magi advance with the star,
For You are born for us,
Little Child, God Eternal!’
– CCC 525
No one would welcome Him. They all knew He was coming, yet no one was prepared. Not a single home. And our Lord, being gentle and humble, He isn’t one to just barge His way in somewhere He isn’t ushered in with an open door and welcoming arms to embrace Him.
This is why we have Advent. So we can be prepared for Him. It cost nothing for the townsfolk to help the Holy Family, yet no one wanted to do their part. No one wanted to answer the Call, no one wanted to give their radical ‘Yes!’ to Him. Not a soul’s ears were open to hear of His coming, because they thought, ‘No, this won’t happen in my lifetime, surely.’ But it did.
Christmas, my lovelies, is so, so much more than listening to a few songs and making some candy and preparing food for people to enjoy for dinner. It’s so much more than ripping open shiny paper to see what treasures lay in wait under the tree.
Christmas… is about seeing what Treasure is waiting for us that God has given 2,000 years ago that He continues to bestow upon us, day after day. No expiration, no chance of breaking, no warranties needed. Batteries not necessary. No chance of running up the power bill, going over data usage. None of that. Christmas is about not just family that we were born into or, as is the case with a few of my own friends that I see as such: family we’ve chosen. Christmas is about the Family that is an everlasting, life-giving, soul-changing, heart-warming, heart-softening and unifying bond. Christmas is about our Beloved Lord setting aside His Glory to become poor, all for love of us. Christmas is about the Good Shepherd leaving His 99 Sheep to find the one that went astray: us. Christmas is about the present of His Presence. There’s that word again. ‘Presence.’
It costs nothing to give Him space in our lives, to let Him have a home in our hearts. It costs nothing. And yet, we act as though He is such an inconvenience. Just like the townsfolk at Bethlehem when He first came to us all those centuries ago.
My priest, on a few occasions, has mentioned how we can truly embrace our Beloved Lord. It’s so simple. He says we can’t embrace or grasp God with our arms. We do so with our heart in our faith, hope, and charity, which is our heart. If we pray, we will embrace God. How simple, yet how difficult…
Our Beloved Lord has wanted so desperately to be with us, He took on Human Form so we wouldn’t be too intimidated to approach Him. He came looking for us. I mean.. if that isn’t something worth saying, ‘Thank You so much, Beloved Jesus!’ about… I honestly don’t know what is!
The biggest, clearest, and most tangible expression of love, true love, isn’t just in simple words. It was in action when the ‘Word became Flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory...’ (John 1.14, NAB)
In what way are you making preparations this Advent for Jesus to have a home with you? Do you embrace Jesus through prayer, or do you just give Him a side-hug and a smirk?