3 Guides for Advent
The Thanksgiving holiday is often a time known for stuffing ourselves with turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, and a whole host of other delectable cuisine. If we were to have a mascot for this 1st Sunday of Advent it seems that a big stuffed turkey would fit nicely. Yet now in the Church we begin something new. A new liturgical year has begun and the new season of Advent calls for something different than the Thanksgiving feasting we’ve been doing since Thursday. The Church gives us three rather counter-cultural guides through the season, the prophet Isaiah, St. John the Baptist, and our Blessed Mother Mary.
In today’s first reading, Isaiah calls us to focus on the mountain of the Lord. It’s difficult to climb a mountain, but Isaiah beckons us up. From the top of a mountain you gain perspective. You are able to look forward and backward, to see where you’ve come from and where you’re going. Advent is a time for gaining some perspective and taking the time to contemplate in quiet as on a mountaintop with God.
Secondly, we have St. John the Baptist. Whereas everyone seems to be running busily and buying things, eating large feasts, and trying to accumulate presents, we instead find John in the wilderness. He gets away from it all and goes out to eat locusts and wild honey. That’s the true food of Advent. John’s great message to us is simple, “repent.” Perhaps the path to God is a little crooked. Take some time this Advent to turn back to God, to get to confession. The real threat to our Christmas joy will not be a lack of presents, but a lack of repentance.
Finally, Mary is the star of the season of Advent. She lives simply in a little cave in Nazareth where, in the peace and quiet, she is able to hear God’s voice. She encounters the angel Gabriel and says yes to God’s plan. Above all, Mary is marked by great joy. We’ve all got to have the joyful longing for the birth of Jesus the way Mary did as she carried him in her womb. Notice too that in her joy Mary’s first thought is to run to help her cousin Elizabeth. Rather than selfishly focusing on herself as is so easy to do during Advent, Mary is thinking of how to help others, how she herself can be a present to someone else. Acts of charity are so important to having a good Advent.
These three great figures of the story of Christmas are our guides through this season. If we follow society we are likely to arrive at Christmas day worn out, tied from all the partying and shopping, and probably broke. Let’s instead follow the example of Isaiah, John, and Mary. If we do that, we will arrive at Christmas spiritually filled, full of God’s presence, and ready to begin celebrating.