This year, Sunday, December 1, marks the beginning of Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year.
In his book, The Catholic’s Manual, Fr. Tilmann Pesch , S.J. writes: “As the real coming of Christ was preceded by a time of preparation, so the feast of Christmas is introduced by the season of Advent. During Advent, we are bidden to meditate on our sinfulness, and the endless misery caused thereby, to realize the need of a Savior, to conceive a great desire of His coming, and to prepare our hearts for His reception. On Christmas day, we rejoice in the birth of Jesus who brings with Him our redemption from darkness, sin and everlasting death.” (p. 461)
How do we prepare our hearts for His reception?
John the Baptist showed the way: through repentance, penance, prayer, self-denial and amendment of life. Recommended acts include: Confession, refraining from self-indulgent pleasures (such as food, drink, entertainment, idly surfing the internet), growing in certain virtues, such as patience, by not arguing or complaining, by acts of charity, such as kind words, or deeds (such as visiting the sick, inviting someone to dinner), or charitable giving. Spiritual reading is also encouraged, whether parts of the Bible, the life of a saint, a classic such as The Imitation of Christ, or maybe a book by Bp. Fulton Sheen or an introductory theology book such as Theology for Beginners, by F. J. Sheed.
Advent is also a reminder to prepare for the time when Jesus will come to judge us at the hour of our death and at His Second Coming. As in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Mat 25:1-13), we must have the light of faith fueled by the “oil in our lamps” --- meaning grace, charitable deeds and virtue in our souls --- so that we are ready to meet the Bridegroom when He comes to welcome those who are found worthy to His feast.
Then, on December 25, we celebrate Christmas: the coming of our Redeemer, our Redeemer who came in history, who comes now to us in the Eucharist, and will come in power and might at the end of time.
Fr. Baker, in his book, Preach the Word, says “The incarnation of God in Jesus is God’s greatest work in the world of creation for three reasons: 1) because it has God himself as the purpose and end— to assume flesh from the Virgin Mary and so become man; 2) because it is the supreme manifestation of God’s love for man; and 3) because of the immense good it brings to mankind— the possibility of salvation and eternal life.
“Christmas is the happiest time of the year for several reasons: 1) because it is a season permeated with love. At this time we experience God’s love for us. It is visible. And in imitation of God’s love for us we are motivated to show love for our family and friends; 2) because the greatest happiness in life comes from loving others and being loved. Why is this? Because God made us out of love for love. That is our destiny. He made us for Himself and we know from 1 John 4 that God is love--- that is His very nature and definition--- and we experience a touch of that love at Christmas.
“When we show love for God and for our neighbor, then we are doing what God made us for, what God made us to do. And when we do that, we experience true joy and happiness. That is why Christmas is such a happy time--- a time to rejoice! So saying “Merry Christmas” really means “rejoice” because Jesus has come to save us.”
We volunteers at St. Michael Broadcasting hope that by bringing the Word to you through our programming, that you are inspired to bring “tidings of comfort and joy” to all you meet. Everybody wants to be happy, and if others are attracted to your joy and hope, this may help bring them to Jesus.
Please help your station, St. Michael Broadcasting, to continue to bring this message of hope and eternal life to all of our viewers. We often receive comments and notes from people, Catholic and non-Catholic, who tell us how much it means to them. Please support it through your prayers, by your willingness to volunteer, by telling others, and if possible, a generous year-end financial contribution.
Merry Christmas! Venite adoremus!