In these times of “high alert” the majority of us are watchful. We keep our ear to the ground listening to the news. Missiles, guns, scandals—they all contribute to the paranoia which makes us suspicious of everyone.
However, when Jesus said, “Be watchful! Be alert!” He was not speaking about being fearful. Our Lord invites us to be watchful like a lover waiting for a partner. When we are expecting someone we love we don’t let the dogs out. We turn on the lights, hang up party lights, prepare a banquet. Advent is a time to prepare, not a time to fear. We know what to do in Lent because we are better at acts of penance than we are at knowing how to wait. We fast and pray during Lent, but what do we do during Advent? Besides the Advent wreath, what else is there? Frankly, not much. That’s the point. Advent is not about doing but about being. We are so accustomed to doing something that we have forgotten how to just sit and listen. Watch kids, watch adults, even religious—very few know how to be still. IPhones, I Pads, Net flicks, You name it and if you don’t have it—that’s what Christmas is for because here comes Santa Claus. Almost without exception, we all have an apparatus in our hands. How about substituting the Rosary for the apparatus? How about substituting nothing for the Rosary and coming empty handed before God? Contemplations is the least popular form of prayer. Children know how—take a lesson from babies. They know how to just sit and appreciate the beauty around them. They delight in a simple key chain. But then we grow up and we dumb down. We think that we are getting smarter but we forget about the simple pleasures of life. Advent is about watching the grass grow. Appreciating the One who makes all things grow.
Takes practice. Deepening on how addicted we are, we can begin by turning off some of the noises which pollute our minds. Withdrawal symptoms might occur. Many of us have trouble with silence, with being quiet. Advent is a perfect time to start. If we must do something, then read the Bible. Make a list of the blessings in our life. Most especially, spend quality time with the family.
Rather than spending money on gifts, spend time just talking with those we love. Time is the most precious gift we can give. If we are honest, that’s what we remember about our parents—the time or lack of time we spent with them. Parents want to buy their children the best. Once Advent starts so does the pressure—to be at parties, to write the cards, to get the tree. Meanwhile the Lord gets left out. He’s the One for whom we are preparing. He’s the Birthday Boy. Jesus says, “Watch” because we are not watching. We are easily distracted. Advent and Christmas are the most distracting seasons of the year. What should be the happiest time can be the most stressful time because we are focused on the wrong things. There is nothing wrong with gift-giving, visiting relatives, enjoying meals together—as long as we remember why. The reason has to be Jesus Christ. He wants us to see Him, especially in our family and those who are most in need—the least of our brothers and sisters.
The Lord is already at the door and He is knocking. May He not find us sleeping but wide awake loving one another.