Faith Formation

Christmas Card Advent

Walking through a department store in the weeks before Thanksgiving can be an assault on the senses.  It can be much easier to swerve around the consumer version of Christmas in stores, however, than it often is to separate ourselves from the way these images encroach on our spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ, our focus for Advent.

Purchasing Christmas cards and stamps, pulling out recipes and holiday linens, can so easily shift us into the days after Advent to the celebration of Christmas itself.  These days are so precious, filled with such potential, if we would simply have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. 

What is God’s invitation to you this Advent? 
How does it differ from the invitation extended to you last year? 

If we simply return to prayers and reflections which have “worked” for us in the past – namely, readings and images which allowed us to feel the presence of God – then we may, in fact, be limiting the access God has to our hearts.  We trod the same spiritual paths when we are afraid of not finding our way.  What if the Spirit desires to blaze an entirely new trail within you?  Do we dare follow where we have not gone before?  Advent is a season which offers us time to read the signs.

We are reminded year after year that Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.  We know that Christ has already taken our flesh and been born in Bethlehem, so we acknowledge that Advent is not a time to prepare for his birth.  We prepare our hearts and souls to celebrate Christ’ presence with us – Emmanuel – in the Eucharist each week; thus we recognize that Advent is not a preparation time set aside for the coming of Christ in this sacrament. 

 As the calendar year winds to a close, our thoughts may turn to the close of our own life and the ever-intruding changes we are experiencing which reveal our mortality.  We anticipate the promise of Christ coming again, preparing a place and coming for us…taking us home.  In light of this Advent may well be interpreted as a time to prepare our hearts for the final, glorious coming of Christ.  Are we ready?  How can I shape my life, in the years left to me, to witness to the mission of Jesus with my own?

 Yet, ultimately, I believe that the invitation of this Advent goes further than all previous invitations.   As human beings we are tempted each year to consider this time a Christmas Card Advent; a nostalgic time of lights and song and family. 

The Advent Upon Us
This Advent extends the invitation to us to see him in our sisters and brothers in new, daring ways.  Of course, if asked, “have you seen Jesus in others?” most would answer yes…because we see God where we expect to see God.  God is like I am. 

If I pray for the “eyes to see” then I will recognize Jesus in the disheveled man with the cardboard sign at the grocery store, I will hear Jesus’ voice in the anxiety-ridden message of the Occupy movement regardless of my position, the scales will fall from my eyes – as with St. Paul – and I will see Jesus when I am confronted with the immigrant woman who strives against all odds to feed her child in a foreign land.

During these days, we often sing about making our hearts ready for Christ.  Who is welcome in my life?  Is there room for the God who doesn’t look like me? 

Jesus Didn’t Come As Some Expected
When Jesus was born, he didn’t come as many expected him to come.  This is the sacred challenge for our lifetime – if Jesus stood before me, would I know him?  Advent gives us time to make the necessary changes to our attitudes and to make room in our hearts for the God who is Emmanuel, right here, right now.

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