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 | By Sister Ann Shield

The Lord is coming

Four weeks to get ready

The readings for the First Sunday of Advent are a marvelous “launching pad” for living Advent. I’d like to show you a way to really live this season.

Read Romans 13:11-14 and Mt. 24:37-44. Pay special attention to these words:

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

In our society, the first week of December begins a round of parties and plays, school events and musicals. All of them can be delightful. But what happens to the real Advent?

If we lived in a truly Christian society, we would spend these weeks encouraging one another to grow in faith, to prepare our hearts to celebrate the infinitely merciful act of our God who would take on our flesh, to become like us in all things but sin, so that we could really see that we had a God who would do anything to convince us of his love. It is a miracle of love, so stupendous that our minds cannot take it in.

Because we spend so little time reflecting on the miracle, God’s grace has little chance of penetrating our distractedness or indifference. God could just reveal himself and change us forever. But that would overrule our gift of free will. So God places before us the unbelievable gift of himself in the flesh and asks us to accept him as our Savior. God, the only God, makes himself vulnerable (able to be wounded) to his creatures. He gives all of himself and then lets us choose whether we will accept the gift or not. He makes himself vulnerable to indifference, coldness, rejection and mockery and waits for our response.

What keeps you back from fully accepting Jesus as savior and lord of your life? It’s the only source of true peace and joy.

Jesus tells us in the readings for the First Sunday of Advent that greed and lust, drunkenness, rivalry and jealousy, indifference to eternal matters – all these make false promises that will never satisfy. On the other hand, allowing him to be the master of your life will bring true joy and peace. Really. God never lies! What he promises he will fulfill in your life – and mine.

Advent is a time to take stock – in joyful anticipation of a Savior who loves to come to our lives through the joyful celebration of Christmas. Not a day of tinsel and wrappings, but a day of holding and being held in the arms of a merciful Savior who came on this earth out of love for you.

Advent is a time to make our hearts ready to receive him – each year in a deeper and deeper way. If you’ve never done it, why not begin this Advent? If you have done it before, enter in this year more deeply to the saving work of grace in your heart that your Savior desires to accomplish.

How do we prepare for Advent?

Spend the first week (15 minutes a day) taking stock of what it is in your life that most causes God to take a back seat in your life – or no seat at all! Be honest. As you think about the sin in your life, think, too, about what is the most problematic area – what’s the root? What’s the most basic cause of your sin? Pay attention to yourself, not what someone else causes you to do. What do you do that is at the bottom of most of your difficulties? Then, take that to confession. Do it now because God has so much more to give you in preparation. You want to make sure that the house is clean early in Advent so you can receive all God desires to give. After you have gone to confession, ask God for the grace to see clearly the temptation in this area before you give in to it – in thought or word or action.

Each day of the second week (15 minutes), ask God every morning for grace to recognize when you are being tempted and to give you the grace to say “no” to that temptation in this area. (Don’t try to cover all the areas of sin – that leads to discouragement. Just take one area and the more you can attack the main root, the better it will be.)

In the third week, ask God to enter into your life more deeply; ask him to be your savior and, in a particular way, ask him to save you from sin in the area to which you are paying most attention. We cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Acknowledging that and relying on him will set you free with delight and hope in a whole, new way!

In the fourth week, thank him that he is your savior. Really, take time each day to express your gratitude that he is giving you power to conquer sin – step by step. Don’t be discouraged when you fall; just stand up, repent and keep going. Many of us have difficulty in expressing gratitude. Start practicing with the one to whom you owe the most gratitude – Jesus! Prepare to welcome him more deeply into your heart and into your whole life – as your savior! Rely on him, turn to him in your needs (all the ways we need a savior) and this Christmas may well be the best Christmas you have ever known! God bless you and count on my prayer.

This article was originally published December 2010.