Advent is a time of joyful waiting on the Lord. The readings at Mass tell us to awaken, to be vigilant, to prepare the way for the Lord who is coming among us. We hear the preaching of John the Baptist calling us to repent, to turn back to the Lord, and that we must decrease and that God must increase in our lives. We have readings on the second coming of Jesus, reminding us that He is coming again to offer this world, transformed by His glory, to His heavenly Father.
As St. John tells us, the world, the flesh and the devil are against us. We are tempted to be distracted from God, to be caught up in worldly things, to give into sin because we lose hope in God. Advent puts God on the front burner. In the liturgy, we look back at the ancient expectancy of the messiah and renew our “ardent desire” for His second coming. (CCC 524) If we are truly to enter in to this expectancy and foster our desire for the Lord, we need His grace. A grace that comes to us and moves our hearts through a real prayer life that is attentive to the Lord and His working in us.
What do we really want out of life? Is our hope in God, that He will fulfill us and sustain us, and that we are seeking His will on earth? The fallen aspect of the world can no doubt be against us in our journey to God, but the world, created by God, is good and beautiful, and the place where we live out our vocations as Christians. To be vigilant for the Lord is to be attentive to our vocation in the world. To prepare the way for the Lord is to be of service to others in our families and our communities.
At Christmas, we celebrate His coming among us. What joy it is to believe that God has not abandoned us in this oftentimes frightening world. In the words of Pope Benedict, we “have been visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God’s love.” That is why Advent is a joyful waiting, because God loves us personally and comes to us in the simplicity of the babe of Bethlehem. He offers us his love through the free and unconditional love of a child. While the world respects sophistication and power, God comes to us in such a nonthreatening way, as a child. The joy of Advent anticipates God’s gift of himself to us, and we can have this joy if we are focused on Him.
Fr. Mark Mary, MFVA