An imperfect Advent



Recently, I taught a lesson at church to help children prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas. The lesson likened our Advent anticipation to families awaiting the birth of a new child. Although it’s important to stock our homes with supplies, more than anything, we need to give our babies love.

I felt the meaning of the message right along with the children.

How do I prepare my heart for Christ’s birth at Christmas? What is the focus of my time and energy during the Advent season?

If you’re like me, you’ve fretted over making the perfect purchase or creating a card to send to loved ones.

You’ve crammed in every activity from baking cookies to taking pictures of your kids sitting on Santa’s lap to driving through holiday light displays.

You’ve tried your best to ensure your family has the best Christmas ever.

And if you’re like me, you’ve also spent a few Christmas nights over the years feeling sad that the day is ending before you’ve had a chance to truly embrace it.

For years, I was in such a rush to “do” Christmas that I overlooked Christ’s coming. I thought if I carried out all of my favorite traditions, I would feel the joy this season is supposed to bring. Instead, I felt a sadness I couldn’t soothe.

How could I make this year different for myself and my family?

This year, we are waiting. We are still decorating our house and singing Christmas songs, and oohing and aahing at all the twinkling lights; but we are also placing our hope in Jesus. We are lighting our Advent wreath daily and discussing the purpose of each candle. We are striving to be kind to each other. We are planning how we will celebrate Jesus’s birthday.

And because of those things, we are experiencing God’s gift of love.

John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Christmas is love.

God loves us so much that He sent Jesus into our world to save us and bring us into everlasting life with Him.

His commandments are simple: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

First and foremost, God wants us to love Him. And He wants us to love others with the love we receive from Him.

To embrace Christ at Christmas, we must open our hearts to give and receive God’s love.

We must make room for Him in the mangers of our hearts. Whether it is reading an Advent devotional, attending Eucharistic adoration, or praying with our families, we must prepare our hearts to welcome Him. He is always ready to meet us.

As the kids’ church lesson concluded that day, I asked the children how they would prepare their hearts for Jesus’ birth at Christmas. Their answers included praying, attending Mass and doing nice things for others.

What was supposed to be a teaching for the children turned into a teaching for me.

Advent asks me to cultivate a daily commitment to Christ. When I savor the sacred in the stillness of my heart … there, I find Him.