There is a commercial currently on air that has a young woman who describes the resources that a certain company gives her to do her job with said company: “I want to change the world. And I am impatient. [This company] gives me the resources to do that at the pace that I want to do it.”
While it is a good thing to want to change the world and to have a job that gives you the opportunity to have a hand in doing it, we all need to accept the fact that things aren’t going to come at the pace that we want them to. God’s time is not our time and when we try to accelerate events to match our own timelines, we become frustrated and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this is the exact tendency of our culture today, especially when it comes to the celebration of Christmas. Christmas music and decorations begin to be widespread in the public square pretty much as soon as Halloween is over, and the pressure to get your Christmas shopping done and enjoy the season without really any knowledge of what we’re really celebrating becomes the norm.
But for Catholics, these last few weeks before Christmas are a season of their own and we are called to spread the meaning of that season in our society. This is the season of Advent. The word advent comes from two Latin words: the prefix ad- meaning “to” and venire, meaning “come.” So Advent literally means “to come.” And in this case, we are awaiting the birth of our Savior Who is to come. Notice that this is in the future tense. The celebration of Christmas isn’t here yet. Holy Mother Church wants us to wait a while and feel that feeling of expectation and hope. We need to slow down and learn to wait. Because we are not in charge, God is, and if we aren’t properly prepared for His coming, we won’t know how to take full advantage of the graces and life that He wants to give us. It also teaches us patience, accepting that everything will happen when it’s supposed to happen and that God’s time and plan for us and the world is better than anything we could ever imagine.
But how are we to spend this time of preparation? In prayer and penance, watching for the Lord and His coming and making sure that we are not caught off guard when it happens. The more we pray and do penance, such as fasting, during this time, the more disciplined we will be to listen to God’s voice, do His will, and welcome Him into our hearts. This in turn will prepare us for His coming, both at Christmas and at the end of this life. We should do all of this in a disposition of hope, the hope that we will once again see our God from Whom we came. And Christmas gives us that reminder, that He came for us once and will come again. But first we must spend Advent watching, waiting, and preparing.
So this Advent, as much as we want to jump ahead and be impatient in celebrating Christmas and welcoming Christ, let’s take advantage of the season and spend time in prayer and penance, all while expecting, waiting, and hoping.