Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I love the music, lights, and general holiday cheer. The food is always delicious, and the desserts are heavenly. Time with family is priceless. Overall, this is a wonderful time of the year.
There’s more to Christmas than holiday traditions, however. There’s an ancient tradition that is worthy of note. Advent covers the four weeks leading up to Christmas where the worldwide church awaits the coming of her savior. Advent is a time of preparation. In one sense, the entire Bible up to the indescribable incarnation is a story of Advent, of waiting for the fulfillment of God’s plan for our salvation. See, Advent is most special because I look in the mirror and see what lies behind the exterior. I see a man in desperate need of rescue. I see a husband and father who far too often prefers his own way over the way of his wife and children. I see a man who is utterly hopeless save the coming of Christ. And, as the prophets and peoples of old actively awaited the coming of Christ, I too am to use Advent as a time of active waiting, of preparation, for Christ’s coming more fully in my own life as well as Christ’s final, victorious return.
I want to share a thought from the Ancient Christian Devotional edited by Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby. This thought originates with Chromatius of Aquileia in his Tractate on Matthew 8.1. The theme is preparation and is from the Gospel reading, Matthew 3:1-12.
Hence John prepared these ways of mercy and truth, faith and justice. Concerning them, Jeremiah also declared, “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it.” Because the heavenly kingdom is found along these ways, not without good reason John adds, “The kingdom of heaven is near.” So do you want the kingdom of heaven to also be near you? Prepare these ways in your heart, in your senses and in your soul. Pave with you the way of chastity, the way of faith and the way of holiness. Build roads of justice. Remove every scandal of offense from your heart. For it is written: “Remove the stones from the road.” And then, indeed, through the thoughts of your heart and the very movements of your soul, Christ the King will enter along certain paths.
Advent is a time to reassess the values of our own lives and compare them with Christ’s coming kingdom, the kingdom he inaugurated in his incarnation and life. Advent is a time to lay ourselves open before the King and allow his Light of truth to shine into our darkened hearts. Advent allows us to see our true allegiance, and by God’s grace, reorient our lives towards His kingdom.
As Chromatius writes, “Do you want the kingdom of heaven to be near you?” A great Advent question! If you answer “Yes!”, then “Prepare your heart, senses and soul.” Cultivate chastity, faith, love, joy, contentment, temperance, meekness, and holiness. He adds “remove every scandal of offense from you heart.” Wow! Advent can be a painful, yet liberating time of becoming free from cultural bondage.
May this Advent be only about accumulating more of Christ and his likeness. May Advent be a time of honest reflection, and holy preparation. Christ is coming! Amen.
*Image from public domain.