“Welcome the Season of Advent”
(Fr Regie, MSP)
There’s a smell of Christmas around. People get busy again shopping and buying gifts. We notice that even before Advent enters, we tend to anticipate the spirit of Christmas by having parties, putting on decors and lights, etc. There seems to be an adrenalin rush for Christmas, in the sense of material preparations. There’s nothing wrong to anticipate, yet, we have to take care that we don’t lose the spirit when Christmas day comes because we already spend much of our energy. This is probably the flip side when spiritual preparation for Christmas is replaced by goods and things, by consumerism and materialism, we forget or take for granted the ultimate reason behind our celebrations. We fail to see the true meaning of Christmas.
The season of Advent helps us to be in touched with our interiority as we await the coming of God giving meaning to our lives, giving us a sense of direction and even shedding light to our sufferings and sacrifices. The central theme for this season is watching and staying awake. This is an interior disposition, a disposition of the heart always seeking and longing for God, for his coming, especially when we are living in darkness and sin. Our first reading today (Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7) expresses this realisation of having wandered far from God and a longing to return to Him, “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.” There is a thirsting for God in humble acceptance of sins, but full of trust in the faithfulness of God, remembering the good things he has done to them.
Saint Paul in the second reading (1 Corinthians 1:3-9) points out the grace of God given to us in and through Jesus Christ. When we wait on him, the eyes of our mind and hearts will be opened to the truths of God giving us the strength and the courage to continue serving and loving God and others. This is also an image of staying awake: living in the grace of God, enriching spiritual life and constantly immersing into the life and person of Jesus Christ. The preparation for Christmas is indeed lacking or meaningless without intentionally developing a closer and deep relationship with Christ. This is the reason why we need to be alert not be drowned by the external preparations that we don’t have any more time to sit down and enjoy in quiet and solitude our friendship with him. We will not find the true meaning of Christmas if we remain in the peripherals.
In our Gospel (Mark 13:33-37) the command to be watchful is emphasized by Jesus. He likens this interior disposition to the servants who keep their eyes on the watch for the coming of the master, fulfilling their responsibilities and doing what they are told to do even if there’s no one observing them, for they do not know the time. This attitude is in contrast to those who are not taking responsibilities of their actions, carefree, and unprepared to the time when the Lord comes. The coming of God in our lives is not only a future event, but it can happen in the here and now, and those who never tire to seek and long for God may encounter him in a time least expected, as a surprise. Indeed, God’s presence encompasses the whole of creation, in the events of life, even in the persons we encounter in our journey.
To welcome the Advent season is to stay spiritually awake. We need to identify what puts us to a deep sleep, to a slumber, missing out the advent of God in our lives or straying our spirits not to watch the coming of the Lord. There’s a lot of factors that bring us to this state, but sin can numb our sensitivity to the presence of God. It’s important then at this time we renew our longing to be reconciled with God, to give us the grace of conversion and transformation. Coming to the sacrament with humble and contrite hearts is a way to enter the spirit of Advent. Let us pray that our preparations for Christmas may be enhanced by our willingness to receive Christ in our lives.