By Sherry Brownrigg
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as the prophet Isaiah said.” ~ John 1:23
The lights are up, parties are planned, shopping has commenced, the overeating of holiday treats is occurring – everything for my typical lead-up to Christmas is underway. But what’s also typical for this time of year is how these things can take over, often eclipsing the true meaning of Christmas. As someone who loves a good party, I’m often in that boat.
Shift Your Focus
The good news is that as Catholics, our Church has built-in opportunities to turn away from the busyness and focus on celebration to help us prepare our hearts for the coming of our Savior. Many parishes offer Advent retreats, extra times for confessions and resources to help us pray during this penitential time of waiting, and the Universal Church gives us an incredible wealth of Mass readings that center us squarely in Advent.
It’s helpful to meditate on God’s promise to Israel. During the time of the birth of Jesus, Israel had been suffering under the military dictatorship of the Roman Empire for quite some time. Life was challenging, and they awaited the promised Messiah who would set them free. Their vision of the Messiah, however, was more like a king who would come wielding his power and set them free from captivity. When the Messiah turns out to be a baby born in Bethlehem who grows up to be a carpenter from the tiny town of Nazareth, this is not the king they had expected. God instead sent His only Son, who would indeed set us free. Not from foreign rulers but from sin and the death of the soul, the very things that could keep us from eternal life with Him.
In some ways, you can see how easy it might be for the Israelites to miss the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and dismiss him as another prophet. Yet, the Old Testament is full of passages that foretell the coming of Christ. John’s Gospel in today’s readings tells the story of the Jews and Pharisees coming out to question John the Baptist on what he was doing and whether he was the Messiah. John firmly reminds them of what they already know from scripture: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,‘” as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Jesus Sets Us Free
It’s 2023, and we benefit from 2000-plus years of Christianity that tells us Jesus Christ is the Messiah who comes to set us free. Yet, we can still get caught up in the secular trappings of the season. Christmas arrives in a week, and if you’re stuck in the secular rut, don’t despair. There’s still time to put the lights, the gifts, and the parties in their proper perspective and adopt a spirit of penitence and hopeful anticipation to prepare our hearts for the arrival of our Savior. And on Christmas Day? We can rejoice at our Lord’s birth, who will set us free!
Lord Jesus, help me to shift my focus from the busyness of the season to You.
Call to Action
Carve out time today to take advantage of the resources you have available for Advent, or pray to God for help preparing your heart for His coming.
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