Advent is a Time for Spiritual Housekeeping
As we prepare to celebrate the coming of Jesus let us keep in mind this often-overlooked truth — it took forever. Literally. God told Adam and Eve they were going to get a Savior. They lived for a few hundred more years thinking, “Any day now … would be good.” But no. He didn’t come. They told their kids, “Wait for it. He’s coming. Any day now …” Their kids said the same thing to their kids. Picture father telling son, passing the time as they watched their flocks by night.
Four thousand years later, those same shepherds’ descendants are out watching their flocks by night, and BAM! The sky lights up. Angels appear out of nowhere, and it’s “Quick! Follow that star!”
Today’s Christians celebrate the Israelites’ 4,000-year waiting period with four weeks of Advent. And we think that’s too long. When will Christmas get here already?
But Advent has a beauty of its own, and if we overlook it, we cheat ourselves out of Christmas joy. Advent prepares us to receive Jesus as if he is coming to us for the first time. Suppose he is really going to walk through your front door. What would you do? I don’t know about you, but I’d clean up. I’d get rid of my clutter. I’d wipe the fingerprints off the door and vacuum in the corners. I’d throw out last week’s broccoli and light a scented candle — a couple of scented candles. Then I’d decorate and bake him something loaded with butter.
I know. I just described how people get ready for Christmas — materially. You can do the same things spiritually.
Take clutter. I’ve got lots of spiritual clutter. The best place to get rid of clutter is confession. Did you ever reluctantly throw something out and find you just don’t miss it? It was junk. Now that the junk is gone, there is room in your heart for all kinds of good things. That’s confession.
How about those smudges, those cobwebs? Advent is a time of penance. Not many people know that, but it’s a mini version of Lent. When you do your penances — whatever they are — think of it as wiping away the spiritual smudges your dirty fingers have left and vacuuming the cobwebs that formed in your soul without you knowing they were there. (Alert: this metaphor is about to get worse.) If your sins have created a lingering stink like last week’s broccoli, apologize and do acts of kindness to clear the air.
Now you can decorate! Your decorations are little acts of love for God. Get to a weekday Mass. Say the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary with your family. Get an Advent wreath and sing an Advent carol when you light it.
When Christmas finally comes, you will be ready to receive Jesus with all the anticipation and joy of the shepherds. You can meet him even more intimately than the shepherds did by receiving the Eucharist. There, under the appearances of bread and wine, he is truly present, just as he was present in Bethlehem. And he is coming to dwell within you.
I don’t know about you, but I need to get started. Those four weeks are going to fly by.
Susie Lloyd has won three Catholic Press Awards for her writing. Find her books, articles, and speaking schedule at SusieLloyd.com.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, December 2017