Have you ever wondered why the Church places four weeks of Advent before Christmas? Isn’t Christmas majesty and exciting enough by itself? Doesn’t the season of Advent distract us from celebrating Christ’s birth? Of course not!!! The purpose of Advent is most certainly NOT to distract us from the birth of Our Savior; on the contrary, it heightened, extends and completes the celebration, because such an important event as the birth of Christ deserves specific time to simply increase our desire and longing for its arrival. Just as people finish a pep-rally already tasting victory on their lips, so also Advent awakens in our heart that desire for the victorious coming of the God-Made-Man into our hearts and into the world once more.
It’s rather appropriate that Advent and Christmas come at the end of the calendar year, because personally I believe it’s the time when our desire thermometer starts falling into the negative. Long, cold nights and short hours of sunlight, time to study for exams or untangle the finances of the ending year, and the startling realization that another year is already almost gone, with all its events unable to be changed or done over.
Precisely in this moment of fading strength and heaviness the Church gives us an opportunity to rekindle our desire for God and our need for His presence and closeness in our lives. Without Advent, the spiritual magnitude, richness, and sublimity of the events of Christmas would be forgotten and lost, and we would be left with only the gaudy Santa hats and chaotic shopping that begins even as the kids are still taking off their Halloween costumes.
It’s slightly ironic that the secular world spends months preparing for Christmas while most Christians barely come by the minimal spiritual preparation manifested in lighting an Advent wreath for four weeks.
Advent is more than a wreath. It’s about the anticipation of the arrival of the greatest man the world has ever known; a miracle worker, the Messiah of all people, God Himself taking on the lowliness of our weak human flesh! This is one who brings meaning to our lives, transforms the greatest suffering into instruments of growth, heals our wounded bodies, minds, and hearts, and saves us from the eternal torments of Hell, giving us the opportunity to come with Him to the Infinite Happiness of Heaven instead.
News flash: THIS IS A REASON TO BE EXCITED!!!!! It should stir in our hearts that sleeping fire, that passionate desire which shouts “YES! THAT is what my heart longs for. In HIM is where I will discover true happiness and the fulfillment of the deepest longings and aching of my heart!” It’s a sufficient reason to spend some time meditating on what his coming means for each one of us, how prepared I am to receive him into my heart, and how the Church majestically prepares for the arrival of Her King (if the readings during Mass for Advent don’t stir in our hearts some sentiments of hope and longing and excitement, then I don’t know what will!)
In this time of Advent 2013, I’ve had some time to reflect on what this desire for God looks like for me. So below I share with you my reflection and conclusions in poem form:
To rouse a sleeping lion,
to stir a waning flame,
is like steadfast desire
that cannot be contained.
At one time laying silent
in the temple of the soul
is suddenly awakened
a passion long untold.
Its strength is kin to lions.
Its heat alike to flame.
A mighty storm, in time let loose,
of wildness untamed.
The great desire of the soul
to reach a foreign land,
to find One who creates and heals
with a single touch of his hand,
is oft forgot and unaware
in long and quiet sleep,
until sweet love, or suffering,
send an echo into the deep.
Awake, my soul, your great desire!
Awaken your passionate longing!
Search and seek until you find
the Quencher of Thirst, your King.
I challenge you during these last few days before Christmas: Make your desire for God outdo that of your desire to get the latest iPhone, designer boots, or BlueRay edition of The Avengers movie. If we spend as much time preparing our hearts for Christ as we do preparing our homes to receive that 72’’ flat screen TV, I think you’ll be surprised at the once-hidden spiritual desire and joy that begin to stir within you.
Have a desire-filled Advent and a Blessed Christmas!