I have enjoyed Advent for many years now. Even before I was Catholic, I realized that Advent presented the primary opportunity to prepare for Christmas and counter all the merchandising hoopla so prevalent during this time of the year.
Advent prepares us for the coming of the Lord. We prepare to remember His first coming at Christmas. We also prepare for His second coming in power and glory. We do not know when He will return. But Advent reminds us that we must always be ready. We must always be prepared.
I love Advent for this reason. It calls me from the hustle and bustle of modern life to remember that I am living for something much more. My home is in heaven. The love of my life is my Lord. Yet I can get so caught up in the distractions of this life. Advent calls me back. It helps me re-adjust my perspective.
There are two words that have my attention this Advent: focus, and holiness. The two naturally go together, for we are called to focus on living holy lives.
I am easily distracted. Any number of skirmishes are vying for my attention. There's anxiety over the economy and the future. There are any number of concerns about the children. There is an endless array of issues at work. I can get caught up in any number of them, or all of them together. Or, I can lay them all aside, seeing them for what they are: distractions. Then I must regain my focus. These other things are important, but not nearly as much as the focus I must have on our Lord Jesus Christ.
Then there's holiness. What do I mean by that? I mean an ongoing conversion to become more like my Lord, Jesus Christ. How do I attain it? Through prayer and the Sacraments. Both of these need to be much more than mere ceremonies. When I begin to just go through the motions, I lose the focus necessary to derive the grace provided through these means. I need to wait in God's presence and breathe in the air of heaven. I need to let Him fill me. Prayer needs to become something I do as natural as breathing.
The Sacraments offer unique encounters with Christ. He is fully present in the Eucharist. As I receive Him, I am truly transformed. In Reconciliation I am reminded again that He has not come to condemn me. He has come to forgive. He has come to show mercy, and love. I must then do likewise.
These are some of my thoughts as I embark on yet another journey into Advent. And this brings me to one last word: longing. I find that the more I draw near to Him, the more I am longing for the day of His return to deliver me from this earthly pilgrimage; this temporary exile from my true homeland.
May the Lord grant us all time to rest, reflect, and recall the reason for our being. In these times let us find Him close at hand. May all of you have a wonderfully holy Advent season!