By Sarah Christmyer
It’s December 10 and already I’m ready for Christmas to be over. Ever since Thanksgiving, I’ve been baking, shopping, decorating, mailing, stringing lights, wrapping, partying…. It is a long, exhausting season! And there are still two weeks left to go.
I wonder if whoever puts the mass readings together thought of people like me when they decided to set the second Sunday of Advent in the desert. I so need to get away from it all, and enter a desert somewhere! To go where there is nothing to catch the eye but rock and sand; where the wind has nothing to rustle so it vanishes without a sound. To leave the mounds of Christmas cookies and festive drinks that fill my kitchen and be thirsty once again. I need to feel my need for Jesus, so that I can welcome him.
“In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!” cries Isaiah in the first reading. “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! … Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed” (See Isa 40:1-5; emphasis mine). And I realize, I’ve gotten it backward. I’ve been filling up my inner life instead of emptying it out. Creating hills and valleys and moving rocks into place instead of flattening out a highway for the Lord to ride in on. No wonder I can’t see him coming in the distance! No wonder I don’t have the stamina to wait!
In the readings today, Isaiah and John the Baptist are drawing my attention inward. All those other preparations might be good and even needed: but they don’t prepare my heart. By “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4), John calls us to clear out the debris, level the turf, and fill in the potholes of our souls. It’s time to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then make room in our hearts to receive the Christ child when he comes.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Remember that Advent is a penitential season. Consider setting aside a day a week for prayer and fasting.
- If you find yourself too busy and distracted to see Jesus, meditate on the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and pray for help to do the “one thing needful.” Remember it isn’t either-or, but putting the “good portion” first that is important.
- See if you can shift some of your pre-Christmas activity to afterward. Is there a way to keep Advent primarily as a time of waiting, then celebrate 12 days of Christmas after Jesus comes?
- Cultivate a regular daily time of inner peace and quiet so there is room in your interior life, for Christ to come to. Use the time for spiritual reading, meditation and prayer.
- Listen to Bach’s Advent Cantatas or the Messiah. Often.
- Set your phone alarm to go off every day at noon. Pray the Angelus and reflect upon the Incarnation.
- Gather your family for prayer around the Advent wreath each day.
- Pray the Memorare, asking that our Blessed Mother will help you prepare and be ready and receive her Son: REMEMBER, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
Come, Lord Jesus!
Question for reflection: What will you do this week, to carve out some “desert time” to better prepare for the Lord?
About the Author:
Sarah Christmyer is co-developer and founding editor of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. The author of numerous Bible studies and several guided journals for Bible reading, she speaks at conferences and retreats on topics related to Scripture and the Catholic faith. She teaches at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Follow her blog at ComeIntotheWord.com.