Reflection: Christmas is here! Oh wait…

 

First Sunday of Advent – 27 November 2016

tired-of-christmas2

Are you ready? Or maybe you’re already done… Why not take a step back and breathe… And pray. Image Credit: Agape COC

We have officially entered the “Christmas Season”, full of gift buying, food preparation, and celebration. These next four weeks can be some of the busiest of the year, filled with family visits, last minute details, and all manner of hustle and bustle. This can be a time of great happiness, but at the same time, it can also be a time of great stress. The remedy? Remembering that we aren’t really in the “Christmas Season” at all; rather, we are in the “Advent Season”, a time of quiet prayer and reflection as we await the coming of the Lord.

Each Sunday of Advent has a specific “theme” that is reflected in that day’s readings and Mass prayers: Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Reflecting on each of these themes, especially through our participation in the Sunday liturgies, we are called to “climb the Lord’s mountain…that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths” (Is. 2:3). The lessons of Advent teach us that even amidst our busy lives, we must keep our focus always on the Lord, so that we may “go up to the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122) with hearts open to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Friends, this Advent let us cultivate an attitude of prayer and reflection, even amidst our hectic schedules and long to-do lists. “Let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Is. 2:5) and use this time not only for preparing for the coming holidays, but preparing our hearts and souls to be more fervent followers of the humble child who will be born in the manager in just a few weeks time, for “so too, you must also be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Mt. 24:44).

For reflection:

  • How can I include just 15 more minutes of prayer in my life each day?
  • How can I better witness to the truth and love of the Gospel through my busy schedule of the holiday season?

On The Journey: Christmas with Augustine

Rather than continue with Augustine’s Confessions this week, I thought I would reflect rather on one of his Christmas sermons.Then I read the selection in this morning Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours and remembered that today’s reading comes from Augustine himself, incidentally from one of his Christmas sermons. I read it, reflected upon it, and once again found it eye-opening and inspiring. Then I thought to myself, rather than post my own ramblings, why not let Augustine speak for himself this week?

And so I leave you with Saint Augustine and his words on the mystery and reality of Christmas. God bless you all, and I hope you have a joyous Christmas!

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

Nativity,_Follower_of_Vasco_Fernandes

Nativity, Vasco Fernandes [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of a virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not proceeded from us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ, were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace

Questions for reflection:

  • Have you been asleep, and if so, how?
  • What do you need to do in order to wake up, to bear witness to the Lord?

This is part of a continuing series, Companions on the Journey, which travels along with a particular companion in the spiritual life, one of the great saints, in order discover how some of their writings might be applicable to our everyday lives. Currently, we are traveling with Augustine of Hippo through his work, Confessions. You can take a look at previous posts in the series or read the introduction.

Advent 2015 Resources

The Annunciation, by Murillo [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Annunciation, by Murillo [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s be honest: Christmas often overshadows Advent, especially in our increasingly secular society that tends to focus on the gifts rather than on the true meaning of Christmas (Archbishop Sheen will explain it all to you here). This year, however, try something different: try making Advent a priority in your house, taking advantage of this crucial piece of the Christian journey as we seek to grow closer to Jesus Christ.. I have put together some resources that I have tried in the past and found both encouraging and thought-provoking.

No matter what you do, however, don’t let Advent pass you by! Be intentional, prepare for the coming of Jesus at Christmas in a new and profound way this year by focusing on the season of Advent.

Bishop Robert Barron’s Daily Advent Reflections – Available in both English and Spanish, I have found these reflections a good way to start the day, often reading them as I drink a cup of tea before I get ready in the morning. On each Sunday, they are a bit longer, and sometimes include a video. Bishop Barron’s introduction is below.

Best Advent Ever – From Matthew Kelly and Dynamic Catholic, this is another great series on focusing on the meaning of Advent and how it can be truly meaningful and life-changing. Click through to see the introduction video.

An of Advent from Jimmy Akin and the National Catholic Register – Straight and to the point, this is a good thorough FAQ of sorts for Advent.

Reflections on Advent, related devotions, as well as other resources, from EWTN – There is a lot of great info on this site, but it can be a bit difficult to navigate at first. If you are looking for the weekly reflection, they are at the very top of the page.

Resources from the USCCB – this site includes reflections and prayers on the meaning of Advent, a guide for how to set up an Advent Wreath, and even an electronic Advent Calendar

Historic and Symbolic Meaning of Advent from the Catholic Encyclopedia – Pretty self-explanatory. It’s an encyclopedia article on Advent.

For my own part, I will be posting weekly reflections as well, in addition to any other helpful items or articles I might find over the next few weeks.

Make this year’s Advent purposeful. Know that my prayers are with you all; please keep me in your prayers too!

UPDATE (11/27/15 14:58): A friend of mine just sent me a really cool “Names of Jesus” Advent chain activity. There are 25 names, so you can start on December 1st with your kids. An excellent way to learn about Jesus and enter into the season of Advent!