J.M.J. The Church's extraordinary wisdom is illustrated in numerous ways, one being the very existence of Advent. The Faithful are granted several weeks to make ready for the Solemnity of the Birth of Christ. What is the result?
Such a period of prayerful preparation if sincerely "entered into" ensures that December 25 will not be just another day but rather a joyful, authentic commemoration of the first coming of Jesus over 2,000 years ago.
Mothers could tell us much about preparation. They are well aware of how to make ready for the birth of a child. The period of pregnancy helps mothers--and fathers--to adjust and anticipate the arrival of their son or daughter.
The Blessed Virgin Mary experienced the first Advent. She knew, thanks to the Archangel Gabriel, that the holy Child within her was "the Son of the Most High." She intensely waited the appearance to the world of the One nestled in her chaste womb.
The long anticipation of the people of Israel rested with Mary.
The Chosen People had spent centuries preparing their hearts for the Messiah. Now, this unique woman, during her Advent of nine months, shouldered the hopes of Zion.
Our Lady's pining for the Birth of the Savior is the pattern for us. We desperately need Jesus. He wants to be with us in our joys and sorrows. Therefore, to benefit from the annual celebration of Christmas, we commit ourselves to an Advent, in the spirit of Mary, filled with prayer, self-denial and service.
Here are some tried-and true Advent "exercises" to help us prepare for Christmas.
Prayer. Communication with God is necessary during any liturgical season. Advent calls forth our prayer by reminding us that Jesus, Who came to redeem us from Original Sin, desires that we pray because He knows how our relationship with Him, His Father and Their Holy Spirit needs to be nourished. Prayer is required if we are to remain faithful to Christ and His commands. He taught His Apostles to pray. He teaches us to do the same.
+++Spend extra time in personal prayer, read Chapters 1-2 from the Holy Gospels according to Saints Matthew and Luke, go to Confession during Advent, receive the Most Holy Eucharist more often.
Self-denial. Any solid mortification we practice is valuable to our souls. We are to be fortified in order to welcome Jesus again at Christmas. How pleased He will be if we show Him that we have cooperated with the Holy Spirit, thereby being genuinely converted to the principles of His Holy Gospel. Self-denial effects our detachment from the things of the world.
+++Deny yourself some legitimate pleasure, mortify your anger, stem your curiosity.
Service. The Birth of Jesus was about obeying His Father and serving us. Christ undertook His mission as the Suffering Servant Who selflessly laid down His life in adoration of His Father and in service of His brothers and sisters.
+++Visit an elderly person in a retirement home, extend kindness to a pregnant woman, offer some alms to a soup kitchen.
Mary did not merely wait for the Birth of Jesus, she actively prepared for His coming. The spiritual fruits we enjoy this Christmas will be in direct proportion to how we, endowed with divine grace, prepared this Advent to greet Jesus.