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Avoiding Advent Pitfalls


 

We’re all familiar with the main message of Advent:

“PREPARE!”

As we look back on past Advents, however, most of us have done a rather poor job preparing to welcome Christ. Sure, we’ve prepared for Christmas by buying gifts, decorating and baking and we’ve probably reflected on the Lord’s birth, but have we honestly followed the Church’s instructions to “Prepare the way of the Lord”?

I would guess that most of us would have to admit that we’ve often failed to use the season of Advent as a time of preparation. And why is that? After doing some thinking, I’ve identified two big reasons why we fail to prepare to welcome the Lord.

1. No Need To Prepare – “Why should I prepare when Jesus was already born 2000 years ago?” Does that question sound familiar? It’s a very common and reasonable question and one that we have every right to ask. Every Advent, the Church tells us to prepare, but what’s the point? He’s already been born!

A related concern has to do with Our Lord’s second coming. In the gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Jesus issued a stern warning:

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” (Luke 21:34)

When we look at Jesus’ words, we generally think of His glorious second coming. When we do that, the common perception (not one I would recommend, by the way!) is that we’ve got plenty of time. After all, He hasn’t returned for two thousand years, why should we expect Him to return any time soon? When we think like this, just like when we focus on Jesus’ historical birth, we convince ourselves that there is no real reason to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

In reality, the Church gives us the season of Advent so that we will prepare to welcome Jesus spiritually into our lives NOW! Rather than wait to welcome the Lord in the future, we are invited to welcome Him into our hearts right now. Thinking along these lines helps increase our sense of urgency and allows us to use THIS Advent to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus.

2. We Don’t Have The Time – Certainly, it’s easy to understand why we’re stressed at this time of year. Endless errands, shopping trips and holiday activities leave us little time for our spiritual lives. Although it doesn’t seem to make sense, it’s during the times that we’re busiest that we need to focus on our relationship with the Lord. One of the best Biblical examples of this is found in Jesus’ visit to the home of sisters Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42). While Martha actively served and showed hospitality to Jesus, her sister Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching”. In reply to Martha’s desperate appeal for assistance, Jesus answered:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

In other words, taking some time to listen to the Lord (even while there is much work to be done) is more important than running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. Notice that Jesus never said that Martha was wrong for working so hard to show hospitality. He simply pointed out that Mary has chosen the better part. If we take the time to focus on the Lord during this Advent season, He will reward us with the gift of peace.

We never know if this Advent will be our last. Let’s not make the mistake of being unprepared to welcome Him into our lives. Instead, let’s strive to make it the best Advent ever!

Dear Lord – Please increase my desire to welcome you spiritually this Advent. Help me to pause from the activities of my daily life and focus on my relationship with You. Grant me your supernatural peace and the graces that I need to walk with You each day. Amen.

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