Walking on the streets I can see bright colorful lights, hear some nice and peaceful carols sung by children, pass by shops promoting sales so that you can get the best Christmas presents for your loved ones. It’s time to prepare for Christmas. But it’s obvious that in many places the real meaning of this time got lost somewhere.
For many people Advent is only the time leading up to Christmas. It’s the time to decorate our homes and prepare for a Christmas feast, to find the best presents and feel the love that everyone’s talking about.
And while it is indeed nice to walk among the people who are preparing for something they find important, this time calls for a different kind of preparation in our hearts and our lives.
Advent is not simply the four or so weeks before Christmas. The term Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means “coming”, and it doesn’t refer only to the Nativity of Jesus, but the Second Coming, as well. It is the time to prepare our hearts for both, and while the world is talking about a peace in this rushing life, our faith calls us to really understand this time and make our hearts ready to accept Christ, who wants to be born in us.
The liturgical color of Advent, violet, suggests a deep retrospection, a time for contemplation, a time for fasting and offerings. Advent is similar to Lent in the sense of preparation for something greater. The acts that the Church calls us to, like fasting or works of mercy, are not obligations which we can’t step into Christmas without, they are special help that we can lean on to help us prepare our hearts.
Advent is also a time for starting anew. Not only it is the beginning of the new liturgical year, but Christmas brings a certain sense of hope: that we can always repent and start again. It brings humility as well; that the Savior of the world had so much love for us that He came to our world in such a fragile state, and this knowledge and understanding can generate a deep sense of humility which makes us turn to God and contemplate our lives.
As I’m walking on the streets, I wonder about the people rushing past me. Do they realize what a gift this time is? Are they preparing for Christ, or will they be surprised when He is here? Do they really want to love the others, or do they just want to pacify their own hearts by doing something ‘good’ around this time of the year?
And what am I doing? Do I get lost in this rush and pressure the world puts on me, or can I stop and contemplate what the Lord is showing me? Do I get blinded by the red and green ornaments and wrappings everywhere, or can I leave all the unnecessary things behind to concentrate on the gift the Lord wants to give me?
It is not a coincidence that we have this time before Christmas. Because even if I feel that I stumbled and forgot what the real meaning is behind the sugar-coating, I have this time to turn back toward the most important thing, Christ.