It seems like the whole world has been in one long frenzy of Christmas preparation since the back-to-school sales ended. We are barraged with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, free shipping, sales, coupons, catalogues and anything else you can imagine that will influence us to buy more stuff. And in all this messy busyness there does not seem to be any time or place for quietly anticipating the birth of the Christ Child.
It’s time to ignore the decorating; the baking; the buying and the parties. The most important thing you and I can do to prepare for Christmas is to remember why we’re celebrating Christmas—the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.
In the chaos of this season, it takes an intentional effort to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. It takes an intentional effort to have a spirit that’s ready to worship the Christ of Christmas. It takes an intentional effort to keep this holiday holy and reverent.
So even if it’s going to take you until the stores close on Christmas Eve to finish everything, now is the time to stop the busyness by concentrating on Advent. Take a moment in silent contemplation to ask the Lord if you’re spiritually ready for Christmas.
The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas. Liturgically, the Christmas season does not begin until the first Mass on Christmas Eve and until then we are in the season of Advent no matter what the world is throwing at us.
One way to remain in Advent is to spend some unhurried time reading through the ‘advent’ story in Luke Chapter 1. It is a beautiful story of faith and miracles as we hear about the preparations for the coming of the Messiah.
The first part of the story is when the Angel Gabriel visits Zechariah in the temple and tells him that he and his wife, Elizabeth will have a child they will name John. Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years and had given up the hope of having a child. Zechariah is so astonished at this news, he doubts the angel and is struck speechless.
The second part of the story is when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary in Nazareth: Luke 1:26-28 reads: “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
This is the first line we use when saying the Hail Mary: “Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you.” It is one on the most beautiful prayers of the Church and relates directly to Advent—the anticipation of Christ’s birth.
The story continues with Mary questioning the angel, and then declaring she is the handmaid of the Lord. Luke 1:38 reads “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Just imagine how peaceful our lives would be if only we would be like Mary and submit to God’s providence instead of following the ways of the world.
The next part of the story is when Mary visits Elizabeth and we hear the second part of the Hail Mary in Elizabeth’s greeting from Luke 1:41-42: “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’” In these verses we hear the second part of the Hail Mary prayer.
Through these faithful people we can see that God works miracles in situations which humans would think impossible. Elizabeth was an older woman considered to be barren and according to the Bible, both she and her husband were “advanced in years.” And in Mary’s case, she became pregnant, even though she was a virgin.
So instead of worrying about all the things you have to do this week, think about the blessings behind what we are celebrating. The miracle of Jesus Christ—the tiny infant in the manger—is the greatest gift we’ll ever receive and it’s all we really need.
Despite what the world is throwing at us, none of the chaotic preparations for Christmas mean much in the light of eternity, which is what Christmas is really all about.
Stay in the Advent season and put aside the busyness. It’s the only way you can be open to the small miracles God has planned especially for you.