Prepare the Way of the Lord This Advent
The Gift of Grace
"Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins." (Isaiah 40: 1-2)
The world in which we live is a dark valley, full of sin, suffering, and the power of the Evil One. There is hardly a corner of society from which the influence of God and the Church has not been extinguished. Abortion, euthanasia, and sexual perversion abound, along with greed, individualism, and apathy. The contagion of sin even infects our own lives through our selfishness, pride, and spiritual laziness. Through our own sin and the sins of our world, we call down upon ourselves the wars, inequalities, and many other forms of suffering that are the natural consequences of sin. When faced with this bleak spectacle we can be tempted to fall into despair. In truth, left to our own devices and efforts towards curing the world’s ills, we rightly should despair. However, God does not remain forever angry with us His children, but has mercy on us even in our sinfulness. His message is “comfort, give comfort to my people” because their “service is at an end,” for He has taken pity on us and sent us a Redeemer to free us from the bondage of our sin.
Even though the world around us remains perpetually in darkness, we have been given the gift of grace as a result of Christ’s Incarnation. The knowledge that we have received this gift should give us happiness and hope regardless of the evil that surrounds us, because through grace, we are preserved from sin and know that God sustains us with His love. We, as cooperators in Christ’s saving work, can bring this happiness to others during the holiday season. This time of year can be a source of sadness to so many who have lost loved ones or experienced other forms of trauma, and this can in turn lead them to a lack of trust in God’s love. We can show them that, despite the sufferings we have endured, we remain joyful and at peace because we know that God always loves us and has overcome the evils of this world by giving His Son. If we ourselves begin to fall into discouragement as we see the sinfulness around us and in us, we should remember that the power of God’s grace is greater than any force of evil, and that God’s Will will win in the end, even if we do not know what it is.
Turn to Him in Trust and Gratitude
"A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 40: 3-5)
How do we prepare for Our Lord’s coming? How do we live this Advent to the fullest as we eagerly and joyfully await the coming of Jesus? Isaiah says to fill in the valleys, make straight the wastelands, level the mountains and hills so Our God can easily approach us. The mountains, valleys, and deserts in our lives are not easily overcome. In fact, we can no more overcome them on our own than we can actually level mountains and raise valleys. But as God draws near to us, He also gives us graces that in small, sometimes unnoticeable ways gradually conquer these obstacles between ourselves and Him.
This Advent, prepare for His coming by drawing close to Him in trust and openness. His will and action in our lives sometimes seems delayed, and when He comes, He does so as one humble and lowly like a baby in a manger. However, the amazing truth is that God comes to us! Each and every day, He reveals gradually and in unexpected ways His desire for our lives. He loves us and shapes our lives in ways that we cannot possibly imagine.
Be expectant of what the Lord will accomplish this Advent! Turn to Him in trust and especially in gratitude for all that He has done and will do for you in love. He was willing to become a man for us. What other great things are in store if we only approach Him humbly and prepare our hearts for His love?
Share the Light and Grace of God
"Go up on to a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care." (Isaiah 40:9-11)
“Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm.” These words are said prophetically of the Incarnation of Christ. Yet how is it that these words can accurately describe the Nativity in Bethlehem when Christ came as a helpless baby in a manger used to feed livestock? First, it took an act only possible to Almighty God to Incarnate the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity as a man. Jesus Christ is only one Person, the Divine Second Person of the Trinity. His human nature does not give rise to the existence of a human person, but subsists in the Divine Person, while still being a complete human nature with body and soul (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, Q. 2, A. 2-3). This mystery is far beyond our comprehension and experience, and we can only give praise to God for His marvelous power in bringing about such a reality.
Second, God’s power is often expressed in small and humble ways. Even as a baby, Christ was still the almighty and all-knowing God. By entering into the world is this way, God showed His love for us in a way that would not have been shown if He had come as a powerful and glorious king. He showed His solidarity with the least among us by becoming such a person. We should take heart from this, knowing that we are never so small as to be beneath God’s notice. We must in turn adopt this attitude towards our fellow men, not fearing to descend into the lowest parts of humanity to bring the love of Christ. We can bring physical assistance to the poor, but more importantly we can bring the light and grace of God to sinners. All men, while still in this life, are capable of repentance, and it is only by the grace of God that we have not fallen into the same depth of sin. We should look upon fellow sinners with compassion more than with contempt and strive to bring them to the joy of a holy life. In this way we can truly live in the spirit of the Christmas season.