1st Sunday of Advent
“The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
AWAKE and PREPARE – it is ADVENT!!! The most hopeful and anticipatory of all seasons. Even those who don’t recognize Christ join in celebration of this season that points to hope, love, joy.
Advent is a time of inner reflection, of being ready for the coming event. Advent is the time the Church gives us to truly prepare our hearts and home for His birth – the birth that allows us to, as Dr. Peter Kreeft says, “…cast off the darkness and put on the armor of Light.” So let us start with:
PRAYER – I recently read, “We have to stop looking at prayer as the spare tire in the trunk and start seeing it as the steering wheel.”
Our relationship with God IS prayer. So we are encouraged (commanded) to pray – in all things, constantly – the Bible tells us so! Especially this time of year – when we are perhaps the busiest. We are busy with the hustle & bustle, the stuff of the (American, as I know it) Christmas season – now politically, correctly referred to as the Winter HOLIDAYS.
It’s almost overwhelming to many, and is overwhelming to some — The gift list…the card list… the cards…the wrapping paper…the ribbon…the tree… retrieving the Christmas decoration from the attic – For some…asking our Husbands AGAIN to get the stuff out of the attic – Hang the outside lights… the meal, Christmas, Christmas Eve or both ?? Who is bringing what?? What time???..How many? Gifts for all or draw names? Shopping…again. Baking…….
Wrapping gifts…the concerts…tickets for the Nutcracker Ballet…grocery shopping… again.
And on…and on… And on…
There’s barely time to breathe; so when is there time to pray? God knows my heart, he’ll understand – tomorrow I’ll really get in prayer time…I’ll get up an hour early, right now I just don’t have the time nor inspiration – to pray — right now.
1Ths 5:17-18 says “Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus”
You know, without prayer there really isn’t joy in ANY season – there isn’t. Fun maybe, even ‘happy’ moments, but nothing that lasts, nothing that feeds the soul…only our relationship with HIM feeds the soul, and without time with HIM, there is no relationship.
This consistent prayer thing is key. Vital.
This CONSISTENT COMMUNICATION.
Think about it.
It has been said, “prayer isn’t part of your relationship with God, it IS your relationship with God.”
So, if GOD is really at the core of our heart, if our desire really is to walk in Christ’s footsteps, if our priority, if our deepest love is of and for God, how could we NOT spend CONSISTENT, INTENTIONAL time with Him, resting in Him and getting to know Him every day?
St. Francis de Sales tells us: “Pray for your prayer’s success.”
S.D. Gordon said, “The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is to pray.”
C.S. Lewis said, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
St. Francis de Sales once said, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”
And, of course the example we desire to follow is that of Christ – he always spent time in prayer. Time away to pray, alone with His father…
The R in PREPARE…
Of course, the REASON for the season – no matter what the media says, it is not a WINTER celebration, a WINTER HOLIDAY – it is CHRIST. CHRIST’s HOLIDAY – CHRIST’s HOLY DAY. First, foremost – ONLY. And that is what we must never lose sight of. When we are constantly remembering the REASON, we will have JOY throughout the holidays. Honest joy allows us to not get angry at those who want to bash, belittle, and banish Christianity. I think about Christ’s words, “look at the coin, who do you see on it? Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s…” Of course, I get annoyed at the political winds of our time, but our focus is to be on our faith, not on politics.
When our ACTIONS of Love, Mercy, Forgiveness to all show that we are FOLLOWERS of CHIRST, and not just TALKERS or verbal or financial defenders of Christ, we will influence the world.
And that gets us to E for:
Oh my – Christ’s LOVE, MERCY & FORGIVINESS is for ALL, and when we truly walk with Him, we give LOVE, MERCY & FORGIVENESS to EVERYONE. To our neighbors, including those who live in our house. Those closest to us are often the ones who we are less merciful with, less forgiving of.
Loving everyone from afar used to be easy, but with the global internet and all things media, it is more difficult. It is critical, as followers of Jesus, that we recognize everyone has a personal style and a personal gift, talent that falls into different ministries, but we all need to be on the side of all humanity. God’s side. We Christians have set a high bar and it is critical that we live up to the standards of Christ. We must have the Holy Spirit so present in our heart, mind and lips that we stop judging others, and stop justifying our judging of others. You see, when we judge, even if we ‘seem’ right in the light of our day, we aren’t. It is the plank in our eye blinding us so that we are pointing out the speck in our neighbour’s eye.
If we are ‘preparing our heart and home for Christmas’, those in our home, neighbourhood, school, workplace, community, etc. should see us, hear us and WATCH us emulating Christ. Christ didn’t judge, instead he said, “Follow me” – and He went about His Father’s business and didn’t worry about whether or not they followed, but all were invited to follow. As the story is told, Gandhi, who was a practicing Hindu, found Jesus intriguing. He read the Gospels and wanted to know more about Christ. On a Sunday morning, he stopped by a Christian church in Calcutta where he was turned away. Since he was not part of the high-caste Indians nor a white person, he was turned away at the door of the church. Unwelcomed. This incidence formed the basis for his quote, “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.”
And they’ll know we are Christians by our LOVE.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Gina Ulicny)
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for the season of Advent. As we enter this time of preparation, we ask for the strength to let go all thoughts, emotions and activities that turn us from You. We ask for your intercession in letting go so that our arms are open to receive You.
Thanksgiving: Lord God of all creation, we thank You for this time to retreat, reflect and re-engage in You and your plan for our salvation. We thank You for your miraculous love. We thank you for giving us saints so that we have examples and know that we, too, can live your will.
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