Preparing for Christ

Are you ready for Christmas?

When people ask this question, they’re usually referring to external preparation – gifts, decorations, parties, food, etc.

Society is fixated on the external factors and begins advertising for Christmas too early. (I enjoy Hallmark movies as much as the next person, but I don’t want to watch Christmas movies in October or November. Sorry Hallmark.)

By the time Christmas arrives, people are exhausted and want it to be over before it even begins!

Christmas is about 10 days away. How do you feel?

Be honest with yourself. Maybe you feel stressed, overwhelmed and/or tired. Maybe you’re so busy you think you’re wasting time reading this post (you’re not wasting time). Maybe you feel excited and/or ready and don’t think this post is relevant to you (it is, keep reading).

Here’s a reminder for each of us: Christmas is about much more than external factors.

Advent

On Sunday, December 2nd, the season of Advent began. The purpose of this season is to prepare for the coming of the Lord. (The word “advent” derives from Latin words meaning “arrival” and “to come.”) During this time, we prepare to receive Christ at His birth, Second Coming and in the present moment.

Let’s explore further…

His Birth

Before Jesus became man, the Jewish people longed and hoped for the promised Messiah for thousands of years. At the appointed time, Jesus was born in Bethlehem – the Savior had come!

Advent ends on December 24th with Christmas Eve Mass. Then, on December 25th, Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth. We aren’t celebrating an ordinary birthday. We’re celebrating the Incarnation, the fact that the Son of God became man and dwelt among us for our salvation!

His Second Coming

Jesus took on a human nature, suffered, died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. But the story isn’t over; He isn’t finished yet…

“He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end” (The Nicene Creed). We hear a great deal about the Second Coming in Scripture and in the prayers at Mass. We cannot know when Christ will return, but we know for sure that He will. For more on the Second Coming, please refer to my previous post Jesus Is Coming.

Present Moment and The Connection

God is not limited by time or space. He is everywhere and always with us. We encounter Him in many ways – in prayer, silence, the Word, the Sacraments, the Mass, our relationships, suffering, creation, etc.

In the present moment, we’re able to learn about the Lord and grow closer to Him. The more we come to know Him, the more we love and desire to be with Him. Then, our desire for Him becomes so great that we long and hope for His return.

If we don’t have a personal encounter with Jesus now, we won’t look forward to His return; we’ll feel afraid or indifferent. If we don’t spend time with Him now, we won’t recognize Him when He comes at Christmas, in the future or in the present moment. If we don’t make room for Him in our hearts and souls, we won’t be able to receive His abounding love and grace.

Spiritual Preparation

Of all the time spent preparing for Christmas, how much time is spent with the One who is the reason for the holy season? Of all the time spent on external preparation, how much time is spent on internal, spiritual preparation?

In order to fully encounter, recognize and receive the Lord, we must prepare ourselves first. This is why the Church calls us to increased prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Advent.

If you’ve been preparing spiritually, great! Maybe you’d like to do more. If you haven’t been preparing spiritually, there’s still time! You can choose one or more of the examples below or another action. (Feel free to share other examples by submitting comments.)

Prayer

  • Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is the best preparation because God forgives our sins and cleanses our souls. Parishes offer extra opportunities for Confession during Advent
  • Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary because they focus on the events surrounding Jesus’ birth
  • Spend time in silence and rest with the Lord

Fasting

  • Give up non-religious TV shows, movies, internet videos, and music
  • Give up cursing and foul language (something to work on all year)
  • Cut back on the amount of money normally spent on gifts

Almsgiving

  • Donate money or items to a charity or your parish (e.g. outreach, food pantry, special collections)
  • Give up something you purchase daily (e.g. coffee, snacks) and donate the money saved
  • Visit a relative who’s elderly, homebound or alone

Advice for The Season

In the remaining days of Advent, don’t let the external factors distract you from the necessary internal preparation. If you feel “too busy” for spiritual preparation, take a step back and re-evaluate priorities.

Without spiritual preparation, we treat Christmas as a secular holiday instead of the holy season that it is. It’s wonderful to celebrate Christmas with gifts, decorations, parties, and food – as long as we prepare ourselves for the Lord first.

Be careful not to become exhausted. Children approach Christmas with enthusiasm, joy and wonder. That’s how we’re meant to approach the coming of Christ, not with fatigue, anxiety or apathy.

Don’t listen to advertisements. You don’t have to find the “perfect gift” for your spouse, children or friends. We already received the perfect gift; He arrived as an infant in a manger and will return in glory soon.

Come, Lord Jesus!

“Advent is, so to speak, an intense training that directs us decisively toward him [Christ] who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously.” ~ St. John Paul II

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