We have officially entered the season of Advent, with Christmas following. For many of us, this will be just another time for social networking, parties, gatherings, greeting cards, fruitcakes, and decorations. And when it is over, all is forgotten except the credit card balance that is due.
I challenge you to look at Advent and Christmas differently this year. Truly welcome Jesus into your lives and allow his life to grow in you. As surely as Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so he also wants to be born in your hearts, and to be not just one more added thing, but truly the Lord.
For many people today, Christianity is tolerable only if it is merely an inspiration that does not ask anything of us. It is true that Christ is inspiring, but he is inspiring because he is real. If ever there were a culture that needed the Incarnation, that needed the presence of Christ, it is ours. In 1 John 4:2 we are reminded: “This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.”
As we prepare for Advent and Christmas, what can we do to be open to the grace of this season? I have a few suggestions.
1. Enter into the liturgy
The readings and prayers at Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours do an excellent job of preparing our hearts to encounter Christ. Consider adding parts of the Liturgy of the Hours to your daily prayer life.
2. Pray together
Take time to pray with your family, with friends, with those at work. Do not be afraid to allow the joy of being in Christ to affect every aspect of your life: your work, your discernment, your relationships, etc. It is good for families to have traditions such as the Advent wreathe or Christmas decorations that teach us the importance of the mysteries we celebrate.
3. Take time for silence
We often think that silence will be our undoing. Isaiah 30:15 reminds us, “By waiting and by calm, you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.” It is amazing how silence can restore our strength, and allow us to be in communion with the Christ who saves us.
4. Be a witness
St. Benedict reminds us, “our way of acting should be different from the world’s way; the love of Christ must come before all else” (RB 4:20). The Eternal Son of the Father is born in the midst of the poverty of this world, and the angels and shepherds are able to rejoice at this event. Our acts of charity are a response to the great gift we have received.
5. Learn humility
Our world tells us to compete, to get ahead, to malign others, and to be the last person standing. St. Benedict teaches quite the opposite: after teaching us the 12 steps of humility in chapter seven of the Rule, St. Benedict reminds us that after ascending all these steps of humility, the monk will quickly arrive at that perfect love of God which casts out fear (RB 7:67; 1 John 4:18). When we are humble, when we live in the truth, it is then that we are free to live in love and not in fear.
Allow the Holy Spirit to move in your heart as he did in the Virgin Mary. Ask Mary for grace this season to truly recognize the exceptionality of her Son, Jesus Christ, and to rejoice. May we join in the words of Our Lady’s Magnificat as we cry out Luke 46-48:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.”
Father Meinrad Miller has been a Benedictine monk since 1986. He currently works as an instructor of Theology at Benedictine College. He serves the monastic community as Choir Master.