In the Season of Advent, we busy ourselves with decorating our homes, baking goodies, writing cards, and wrapping gifts. We consciensciously prepare for visiting relatives and friends. Yet, in the hustle and bustle, we can neglect to prepare our hearts for the coming of the king whose birthday we celebrate.
How can we set our minds and hearts on seeking to understand the mystery of Christ’s coming?
Advent calls us to re-focus: to take time to reflect on God’s promise — what God has done for his people and his faithfulness in keeping his promise. And to ask, “What has God done for me in my life?”
To renew the promises we have made to the Lord. And to ask, “Can God count on me to keep these promises? Will God find me faithful?”
To rejoice in the fulfilled Promise: the birth of the Messiah. And to ask, “What does the Incarnation mean to me, personally?”
Consider the words of Pope Francis, in a November daily homily: “Jesus, God, has taken his wounds with him: he makes them visible to the Father. This is the price: the hands of God are hands blistered by love! And this consoles us much.”
When we begin to understand this mystery of God’s great “blistering” love for us, our Advent preparations will take on a deeper meaning, as we wait in awe-filled anticipation for the Christ Child to be born anew in our hearts.
As we ready our homes, let us be more aware of the meaning of some of the decorations we use. The Christmas tree is symbolic of our immortality, while the star atop the tree, like the Star of Bethlehem, announces the arrival of the Saviour. The Advent wreath, circular in form, reminds us that God is one and God’s love is everlasting. Lighted candles in the window are signs of welcome, while the beloved manger scene speaks to us of the Christ Child’s poverty and love.
As we make the Christmas goodies, let us rekindle the tradition of baking bread, in honour of Bethlehem, the “City of Bread,” where Christ was born. When we write cards and wrap gifts, let us say a prayer that each recipient will be present to the presence of Jesus in a special way this Christmas.
Perhaps we can add a couple of new traditions to our family celebration this year: hanging a Christmas stocking for Jesus and filling it daily with notes of gratitude for blessings received during the year; and making a birthday cake for Jesus. After all, it is Jesus’ birthday we celebrate!
As we prepare our hearts spiritually, let us also remember to welcome the stranger in our midst as readily as we extend hospitality to relatives and friends. In this way, we will make our hearts and our homes even more hospitable to Jesus.
This Advent, as we take time to re-focus, reflect, renew, and rejoice, let us thank God for our giftedness, and ask ourselves how we can be gift to others. Then, our hearts, as well as our homes, will be ready to celebrate the greatest love-gift of all time — Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us!
Martino Land is a freelance writer from North Palm Beach, Fl.