Advent is coming into a place or the coming of Christ into the world, according to dictionary.com
But really, what is ADVENT?
Advent is not merely about the coming of Christ into the world, and to celebrate with all the partying. The definition gives an impression that it is an incomplete action and it is true, we are all awaiting for the second coming of Christ. But do we just carry on with our lives as usual? Advent is also a time for us to take stock of our lives and to encounter God in this season of waiting for the coming of Christ, as the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect, Matthew 24:44.
Do not be afraid. Sometimes, we are afraid to look back into the past, because of all the past hurts and it reminds us of our vulnerability. This is exactly why we need to revisit these memories, not to remind the hurts but to have the humility to seek reconciliation with one another and healing from our Lord Jesus Christ. There are other times where we feel we are not ready to face the uncertainty ahead of us. The season of advent is to invite us to stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man, Luke 21:36.
A voice cries out in the wilderness. As we prepare ourselves, there is a tendency that the soft prompting voice of the Lord is drowned in all the festivities. The voice of the Lord cries out in the wilderness, Luke 3:4, to invite us to remember the last, least and lost. The voice of the Lord invites us to not just remember them in the season of festivities and gifting, but rather to do the best we can for them outside of this season of festivities. We do not need to look far and wide, let’s start with our own family members, relatives, colleagues, friends, neighbor or the coffee shop uncle and aunty who cleans the tables for us when we finished our meals or even our domestic helper whom we so often take for granted. The Lord is inviting us to pray for them as well, even if they hurt us over the year/s. It is time to reconcile.
Encountering God. As we take stock of our lives, where were the “God-moments” in our lives? By saying this, I mean how is my relationship with God? God is not a vending machine where we just toss some coins (our numerous petitions) into the vending machine (our prayer) and hope that the can-drink pops out. We need to grow in our prayer life, that is our relationship with God. Our relationship with God has to move from feeling His presence to choosing to love God. In this season of Advent, it is good to ask ourselves if our relationship with God is transactional or a God whom we want to love because He first loved us, 1 John 4:19. When we remember the last, least and lost, we are encountering God in them, for those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
Not to give up praying! In our fast-paced society, prayer seems to be really difficult, challenging and out of the world to be still and listen to the Lord. We cannot encounter God in our prayer if we are the ones who just keep talking. Every communication is a two-way traffic. As we utter our prayers before the Lord and telling him all the on-goings in our life, we need to be silent and listen to him. Let us make good use of this Advent season to put down all these distractions, not to worry about the big Christmas dinner we need to prepare for our guests or the presents for our kids, but to spend time praying and listening to the Lord.
Thanksgiving. Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not referring to the Thanksgiving dinner with all the turkey, ham and whatever you plan to have for Thanksgiving. After a year of roller-coaster ride of our life, we need to give thanks to God for all the ups and downs, the good and the bad, the joys and the sorrows. When we receive God’s abundant graces and blessings, we need to share with those who have the least. In Pope Francis’s Gaudate et Exsultate, he quoted St Thomas More’s prayer, which I thought was really good, “Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour. Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke and to discover in life a bit of joy, and to be able to share it with others”
A saint whom we at times overlooked but an exemplary figure when it comes to faith and a man of honour is none other than St Joseph. Although Mary was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit, St Joseph remained steadfast in his love and staying by her side to take care of her.
During the time of Mary’s pregnancy, it was definitely a time of trial for both Mary and Joseph. It was a time of uncertainty for Joseph; the anxiety of not having an available room to stay, Mary was going to give birth any time, is the child going to be safe in the manger, and the many more other concerns. Joseph, being the man of the household, had to have faith, to rely on God and not be afraid, to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of their needs. He was the head of the household, for the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in his dreams asking him to take Mary as his wife.
In light of the turbulent trials, would Joseph not be feeling perplexed by all the uncertainties and fears? I’m sure he was but his strong relationship with God gave him the confidence to get through the season of uncertainty. After all the difficulties, there was joy of seeing the birth of the child and this joy and thanksgiving had to be shared. Shepherds were considered the outcasts at that time of Mary and Joseph, but Joseph welcomed them to celebrate together with them the joy of welcoming the baby Jesus into the world. That was the God moment for Joseph, because the joy of waiting for the coming of Christ was to be shared to each and every one.
Let us ask St Joseph for his intercession, as we take stock of our lives and encountering God in this season of Advent.
St Joseph, pray for us.