Advent stirs in us a longing for the Lord to come more fully into our lives. Christ’s coming testifies vividly God’s desire to dwell among us, to experience firsthand the struggles we experience. This season awakens in us a grasp of God’s selfless love for us, that moves us to love as we have been loved. This season awakens in us a burning desire to draw closer to God as God has drawn so close to us in His Incarnation.
As we enter this holy season we awaken in ourselves an awareness of how good, how gracious is our God who is not apart, aloof or distant from us, but who became one with us. We stand in awe of the God “who, though He was in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped, rather He emptied Himself taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance. He humbled Himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2, 6-8)
Dwell on this great mystery of love during these weeks of Advent when we prepare for the coming of the Lord again. Advent can awaken in each of us a desire to empty ourselves as Christ did in becoming one of us. “He united Himself in some fashion with every man.” (Gaudium et Spes, 22) He entered into solidarity with all humanity including sinners. Advent can awaken in us a desire to be in solidarity with others, especially the poor and marginalized.
Advent invites us to discover what really matters in life; that which is worth living for. The Lord’s life was characterized by poverty from the very moment of His birth. There was no room in the inn. He was born in a stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes. He experienced the lot of a refugee in flight from Herod’s search to take His life. He taught us that joy, success, and fulfillment are not found in possessions or in status, but in selfless love of others.
We can all be misled in thinking we can find happiness in seeking our own well being, in grasping and grabbing. Advent leads us to discover what Christ taught: that the one who holds on to his or her life, loses it, but the one who loses his or her life finds it. (Matthew 10:39/ Mark 8: 35)
A profound discovery happens in meditating on Christ’s birth. We learn one of the most important of life’s lessons: how to find fulfillment and true happinesss in the Word, who existed before the world began. This Advent, discover the scripture accounts of Christ’s birth. Read and meditate on the Gospels. The evangelists describe the humble beginnings of Christ, his family origin, the struggles, the danger, the exclusion, and the visit of the shepherds and kings to remind us of the great mystery that our God was born among us, a mystery we are called to ponder during Advent.
We believe that life can best be fulfilled in encountering Jesus Christ. Yet many of us do not know him or they have walked away. Many have not followed the star to the place where, like the shepherds and kings, they can encounter Christ. In Advent we are called to be missionary disciples, inviting and accompanying others to the crib, the place of Christ’s birth. We invite others and inspire them to know the One born among us, especially by the witness and the example of our lives as disciples. When people see a joy in us that flows from our faith, they are drawn to wonder what they are missing.
Many who rarely come to Church return during Advent or at Christmas. The warmth, the mystery, the family spirit of this season make it a prime time to call others to meet Christ. The innocent Child beckons us just as any child draws our attention and brings out the best in us.
During the Christmas season, I like to watch parents bring their children to the beautiful, life-like creche placed inside our Cathedral of St. Augustine. They show their children the infant lying in the manger surrounded by the animals who gaze on the child. They are leading their children to Christ. That can be our effort this Advent: to lead others to the stable where they too can encounter Christ and turn their lives to Christ. The call of the New Evangelization is that we witness Christ in such a way that others come to believe in Him.
Our steps to awaken, to discover and to inspire give us a guide on how to engage in Advent this year.
Reprinted with permission from The New Vision, official newspaper for the diocese of Tuscon.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas is the Bishop of Tucson, AZ.