Preparing our Gifts this Advent

We are now in the season of Advent. This is a graced time for our individual and communal preparation to welcome Jesus at Christmas.

Everybody likes Christmas: everything about it is good, joyful, bountiful, and blessed. But Advent comes before Christmas so that we can prepare ourselves to go deeper into the true meaning of Christmas. Go deeper by going beyond the superficialities of Christmas: Christmas trees and trimmings, twinkling lights and feel-good carols, prettily wrapped up presents and the merriment of gatherings. Go deeper to appreciate that God comes to us in Jesus to save us from sin and death, and so draw us to God and to live life with God.

Advent calls you and me to prepare spiritually for God’s gift of Jesus. He is the real reason for the season of Christmas. To help our spiritual preparation, I am inviting us to read and reflect on “Four Gifts of Advent”. It is a reflection about what each week of Advent can offer us in our spiritual preparation (the gift). You can read this reflection at one go or you can take one week at a time. Below are the key points from the reflection “Four Gifts of Advent”:

Gift 1: Time to Know Your Deepest Longings
As individuals and as a community, we are longing for the presence of God… It was Advent and I was longing, even though I was barely aware of my discontent. Like everyone else, I had been caught up in the busyness of Christmas preparations…I needed more…My longing, once acknowledged, turned out to be an invitation to live with a deeper awareness of God’s presence and care all around me.

What are you longing for? What is your heart trying to tell you? The gift God offers this first week of Advent is the invitation to explore your inner longings…Know that this is the season when your longings will lead you to the Christ Child, in whom the hopes and fears of

Gift 2: God’s Words of Comfort
The gift for the second week of Advent is that God speaks a reassuring word of comfort in the midst of our discontent and longing. In this quiet season—a season we tend to fill up with a lot of noise and frantic activity—make time daily to listen for the comforting words of God in your life… Set aside five minutes each morning or evening and…start jotting down whatever comes to your mind that you are grateful for. With a heart full of gratitude, everything else in our lives will change. We will begin to see, even in the demands of our Christmas preparations, the real purpose of those efforts—celebrating the Lord’s arrival in our life and the lives of those we love.

Week 3 & Gift 3: God’s Love Placed in Your Heart
This week in Advent we focus on hearts: glad hearts, sad hearts, hard hearts, broken hearts, longing hearts. In the Scriptures, much is written about hearts because the heart represents the person’s deepest identity. Our hearts reveal who we most truly are because they hold what we most deeply desire.
What’s in your heart? We can give many answers to that question, and it’s a good question to ponder during this week of Advent. But God has an answer to that question, too. “I will put my law within them, and write it on their hearts,” says the Lord. That law is God’s love.

The love God places in our hearts empowers us to take responsibility for ourselves. The seed of change in our families, in the community, and in the world begins with answering God’s call to meet us and to change our hearts.

Gift 4: Hope That Lasts
Advent is a time to sink our spiritual roots deep, to let them stretch out to God, the source of all life. Because we are thus connected with God, we too can be sources of life to others in the way we live our daily life. Christmas is not only the season of receiving gifts; it is even more so the season of taking delight in giving to others. We emulate what God has done for us and in that we find our deepest joy. Let us prepare, then, to be generous in offering our family, coworkers, and neighbors spiritual gifts such as patience, prudence, encouragement, counsel, faith, hope, and love.

The gift offered during this last week of Advent is the gift of hope. Let us drink deeply of the spiritual gift of hope that God offers us. Then we can cherish within us the spirit of Christmas and bring to others the blessings of the Christ Child every day of the year.

You can read the reflection ‘Four Gifts of Advent’ in its entirety here:

Having read the reflection, here are three points I’d like to suggest for our prayerful reflection after reading it or for each week that you wish to focus on:

a) As you continue your Advent preparation, what do you long for God to do in your life at this time to make your Christmas joyful and blessed? Take some time to list your hopes for yourself and share them with God in prayer. You may wish to hang them on your own Christmas tree as a reminder of your hopes.

b) Having read the ‘Four Gifts of Advent’ either in its entirety or one week at a time, spend some quiet time and consider these questions:

  • Do any of the suggested preparations provide you better ways to prepare yourself spiritually for Christmas? Which ones and why?
  • From what you have read, do you have a sense that God is calling you to live more fully and joyfully? How does this compare with living just as a person with SSA?
  • Advent is about spiritual conversion. Is there a part of you that you wish God’s grace will help you change parts of your life as a Christian with SSA?

Take some time in prayer and share with the Lord any of your thoughts and feelings to the questions you have considered or prayed about. Speak honestly to the Lord as you would to a good friend.

c) Advent is a time of hope. Isaiah expresses these well in many beautiful ways that we hear in the first readings at this time. God preparing a feast for his people on the mountain. God removing the mourning veil and destroying death. God bringing together wolf and lamb, calf and lion to lie down. God will bring radiant light to a people in darkness. God will do all this with and through the gift of his son, Jesus. For the people then and for many now Jesus is their hope.

Is Jesus also the hope you are preparing yourself spiritually to welcome, encounter and embrace this Christmas? Why? Sit before a lighted candle and become more aware of how Jesus can be the hope you are seeking. Speak with Jesus if you feel moved to.

Words of Encouragement for this week

Let’s continue to pray for ourselves and for each other at Advent: that we may allow the Spirit of God to prepare our hearts well for the coming of Jesus who wants to say to us, “you are mine” so that we can say back to him, “and we belong to you.”