We now enter that time of year when the feast of the birth of Christ nears. It is a time of great excitement and anticipation. The world seems to buzz about in a frenzy preparing for the big day. Constant reports stream in through the news networks about how sales in retail stores are going in order to gauge the financial health of the retail world in specific and the nation in general. It is a time of stress for many, feeling pressured to do everything right and get that very special gift for that very special someone else. While the world buzzes about doing its business, most have seemed to have forgotten one of the real purposes for these few short weeks before Christmas: preparation.
We Americans love to prepare for things. We enjoy the anticipation of an upcoming event so much so that the anticipation is often nearly as fulfilling as the event we prepare for. Christmas is a prime example. Black Friday, a term signaling the importance of the day after Thanksgiving to retailers, kicks off the biggest season of preparation that we put ourselves through. Sales, sales, and more sales are the main topics of conversations as otherwise normally sane people head out into the cold of the early morning to stand in line awaiting the best price on this year's newest and hottest gadget. For many, it becomes a ritual, an annual event to be approached and undertaken much in the same way as an athlete might approach an upcoming event. The preparation, that is the shopping, the planning, the partying are almost as much fun as the event of Christmas turns out to be. But we must prepare ourselves for something much more profound.
Now I am not speaking solely of the preparation for the secular celebration of the season of which we are all familiar. No, what I am speaking of is the preparation for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The season, known by many as Advent, has, from its beginnings, been a time of awareness of the return of Christ. Just as we would prepare for the arrival of a dignitary to our homes, so we must also prepare our spiritual lives for the return of our King. How would we, for example, prepare our homes and ourselves for a visit to our home by the President of the United States? What would we do?
No matter how intricate our preparation for the visit of a president may be, our preparation for the coming of the Savior needs be much more involved. These days of Advent are a time of introspection. What could we do better? How can we more perfectly order our lives to align them with that of our Lord's? What have we done during the past year to improve our relationship with God? Where are we in our relationship with God?
These are questions that require us to travel deep into our inner souls. It is a journey fraught with peril because if we are to do it honestly, we will encounter things that we may not like. We will meet ourselves as we really are if we face our inner self with the aid of God in a way that we often do not have enough courage to do. Every day we need to encounter God through prayer. We need to set aside a few minutes out of our busy schedules to spend some time in humble conversation with God. We need to bring Him all of our needs, all of our wants, and all of our fears. We need to express our love for Him and our sorrow for our sinfulness. We need to take on a new humility, realizing that the days are drawing near when the Son of God will return to this world.
Advent is a time for family. We need to come together, forgive one another for offences that we may have committed against one another and help each other reach a new and more meaningful relationship with the Father. There is a tradition known as the Advent Wreath that gathers the family together for family prayer each day of Advent. The wreath consists of four candles, three purple and one pink. The purple candles signify our serious look ito ourselves. The pink stands for the joy we feel as we near Christmas and is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent and each night that week. Each night as the family gathers together a candle is lit and prayers are recited.
The types of prayers, however, are not what is really important. Any prayer, so long as it comes from the heart, will do. The main thing is that they are prayed within the participation of the family as a way of preparing to celebrate the Lord's birth and to prepare for His second coming. This has the great potential of drawing our families together as well as drawing us each individually closer to God.
Any way that you choose, do as John the Baptist did and prepare the way of the Lord for He is surely coming. Advent is an especially good time of the year for this preparation because we are already focused on preparation in our secular lives. Our souls cry out for the Lord. We must make way for Him in our hearts and minds so that we may draw nearer to Him and to one another!