With Christmas songs playing the airwaves as early as September and the yuletide decorations up before you can even blink your eyes, you would think it’s already Christmas. And we don’t mind at all. Not a few of us want to be reminded about the festive and joyous season of Christmas as early as possible. Such constant barrage on our consciousness of the coming of Christmas really is more to convince us about shopping early and finding the best bargain, instead of reminding us of the real reason why we should anticipate for Christmas!
Not wanting to sound like a Scrooge, one has to be reminded that the build up and preparation for Christmas can be something more. Before the commercial Christmas steals the child in the manger and the “Happy holidays” greeting replaces “Merry Christmas,” let’s place things in their proper order.
The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of a faith community. It’s our way of saying our God is so near to us we can feel his breath! That’s why Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is Emmanuel, God-with-us. For us to breathe the hope-filled air of Christmas, we have to acclimatize ourselves first in the ambiance of Advent.
Unfortunately, Advent, as a season of preparation, has been a perennial casualty in the battle for our time and attention during this time of the year that is meant to truly prepare us for a Christmas celebration that is meaningful—one that is beyond the usual secular Christmas. What does Advent offer us?
This year, 2010, Advent gives us 27 days, from November 28 to December 24. Usually, it has four Sundays in a four week period. The novena masses of Simbang Gabi fall within this time. The whole spirit of Advent is to invite the Lord to come to us and for us to be ready to welcome him in our lives. There is a certainty that the Lord comes to us. It is the same certainty of God coming to Mary and Joseph despite their situation in life and amidst their personal doubts and uncertainties. It is the same certainty of God allowing himself to be born in a humble situation of a stable with all the filthy animals and other unsavory characters. But are we ready to welcome and embrace him when he does come? To welcome and embrace God is the first thing we need to do during the first week of Advent. So, we need not make ourselves clean first before God can come to us. We just have to welcome the saving gift he brings to us at his coming.
Next, we have to realize our present situation. If God entered our humanity where it was, amidst its darkness and sinfulness, and not where he wants it to be, we need to do the same at Advent time. Are we at the height of our selfishness? Are we at the lowest of lustful desires? Are we at the apex of our arrogance and egoistic pride? That’s where your Advent must start. That’s where God wants to come into your life and save you. So, if God started where his saving love was needed the most, we who are in need of that saving love should begin within. Where we are weakest, where it is most dark, where we resist and struggle the most, that’s where our Advent season should begin.
When we have done this, it’s time to be quiet and listen. If the Lord is to come to us, his word proclaimed in the Eucharist is a sure way that we can experience his presence. The readings during the Masses of the four weeks of Advent will not only remind us of God’s saving love but will enlighten our mind and guide our steps where we need to go and what we have to do. It will show us that the Lord who comes to us has chosen the best way to be among us: to be one like us in our struggles, to be at our darkest place and yet bring his own light to it. That’s the first Christmas, God being born, taking on our humanity. Needless to say, such quiet listening is prayer. This Advent, the only mantra we have to repeat is: Halina, Hesus halina.” First, Advent. Then, Christmas.