Do you hear what I hear?
If the answer to the above questions is: Christmas music playing in every store and on every street corner, then you are correct. Yes, it seems the commercial secular world has started its Christmas campaign extra early this year. Why, just the other day I went to my local grocery store and not only were all the employees decked out in the traditional Christmastide clothing, but there was even a man dressed as Santa passing out candy canes (which were delicious, by the way) to all the people passing by. Now, I’m no Grinch, but all of this premature holiday cheer is making me want to sneak into these places and steal all of their decorations and Christmas-themed items.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and everything that comes along with it. However, it seems that most of the world has forgotten why Christmas isn’t traditionally celebrated until December 25th. The reason is that there is another holiday season before it, that being the penitential yet joyous season of Advent. Just as there can be no Easter without Lent, there can be no Christmas without Advent. Or at least that’s how it should be, but unfortunately the modern world seems to have shunted Advent off to the side in favor of the more festive holiday of Christmas.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of us Catholics that the secular world has done away with this precious holiday season, because while Advent-tide is a season of hope it is also a time of self-preparation and repentance. Now is the time where we look within ourselves and see where we have gone astray from the Lord’s ways. For the word Advent is Latin for “coming.” Our Lord is coming and we must use these few spare weeks we have before His birth to prepare ourselves and our souls for His arrival.
As with Lent, we can make ourselves ready for His coming by increased prayer, fasting and alms-giving. But those aren’t the only things we can do. We can also give Jesus the gift of our time through service to His body the church or to those in our community who need it most. We can give Him the gift of a contrite heart by going to confession; we can give Him the gift of our love by visiting Him during Eucharistic adoration.
These next four weeks are a perfect chance for all of us to turn our hearts back to the Lord and rid ourselves of all the things that have been separating us from Him and His love. The greatest gift we can give to Jesus this year for His birthday is a changed heart, for it has always been the only thing He has ever truly wanted from us. So let us wait for the Incarnation of our Savior by using the time we have left for spiritual reflection and hopeful anticipation. For the Messiah has come to save us from our sins and to reunite God and man for all eternity. And so let our lips and our hearts sing that joyous refrain: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
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