Preparing the Way

“Advent is the beginning of the end of all in us that is not yet Christ.”  -Thomas Merton

Since the tenth century, Advent has marked the beginning of the Church year in the West. Today, Advent is hardly noticed, rarely observed, obliterated by a shopping tsunami. Advent is not four weeks of shopping for Christmas. The word “advent” literally means “arrival.” Advent is a time for being awake and aware, a time for longing and waiting, a time for preparing for the coming of Christ. Jesus tells us to light our lamps and wait for the Master. Our waiting should be an active not passive waiting. During Advent we get ready to become active participants in God’s incarnation by creating peace in our spiritual, social and personal relationships. In Advent we are asked to look at our lives, and if we see something amiss, we need to correct it. We need to turn our swords into plowshares. Our lives need to be transfigured into vessels of God’s love and compassion. Advent is a time to renounce our clinging to false securities so our eyes will not be so blinded that we cannot see the arrival of Christ in our midst. Jesus may come to you today in the form of a beggar.

We have become so familiar with the Nativity story that it is almost rendered impotent in its ability to speak to us. Advent invites us to look carefully at that cold night long ago, when there was no room at the Inn for Mary and Joseph, as we prepare to open the doors of our hearts to the coming of the Messiah.

Part of the power of the Christmas story is that it describes beautifully the spiritual birth of Christ in the heart of a mystic. In metaphorical language, Christ is born in the poor manger of our own empty hearts, the poor manger inside us, emptied of all ego, of all clinging neediness. Advent is the time of cleaning, of emptying ourselves of ourselves (and anything else) to make room for the birth of Christ. Swept clean and empty, it is the poorest, most humble place on earth and yet the perfect place for the birth of God. St. Francis and St. Clare understood this living story so well and embraced it so fully that they indeed became human vessels of the Christ child.

The best way to celebrate Christmas is to actually experience the birth of Christ within us in a deeper way than ever before. In order to do so, we need to make the inner crib ready for this new life by eliminating all the noise and inner clutter that would crowd Him out. The best way to do this is to set aside time for silence, prayer and intentional love and reverent kindness.

Jesus is coming and will soon knock on the door of your heart. Get ready–that is the message of Advent. And it is a message we need to repeatedly hear throughout the year. God’s coming transcends past and future, is more than a past event or a future expectation…God’s coming is now, this very moment. God is coming. Is my heart ready to become God’s dwelling place? I’m afraid to answer.

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6 Responses to “Preparing the Way”


  1. 1 David Hoover December 1, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Thanks so much Gerry….a lovely Advent meditation!

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  2. 2 Joan Krebs December 2, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Gerry, this is just what this person needed (especially the phrase, “Advent is hardly noticed, hardly observed, obliterated by the tsunami[s] of shopping… (I would add “parties and other superficial good-time engagements”) Every Advent/Christmas “season” I grumph and harumph and resist the idea of “preparing for the coming of Christ.” You gave me reasons to begin yet again. Thanks. How it goes is another matter; Advent liturgies certainly do provide animation for faith. I just have to access this as a 21st century disciple. It’s good to know there are others out there who resist “joining the crowd.” Again thanks.

  3. 3 Jerry December 2, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    You wrote “Jesus is coming and will soon knock on the door of your heart.” I would state it a bit differently – Advent reminds us that the Christ is always ready to enter our hearts.


  1. 1 Advent and How to Avoid the Danger That Comes With Waiting Trackback on December 3, 2013 at 10:13 pm
  2. 2 Advent Devotional Poetry | Hopeful Trackback on November 20, 2014 at 4:56 am
  3. 3 Devotions to Our God in the Manger 2014: A Knock | Hopeful Trackback on December 1, 2014 at 4:12 am

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