Last week I was in Illinois giving a presentation at a women’s ministry Advent Tea. They had asked me to give them some inspiration in regard to keeping a holy Advent in the middle of this demanding and chaotic time of year. I believe that they were expecting me to give them ideas about how to slow things down, cut things out, and be more prayerful and contemplative. I could have done that. I almost did that.
But then I came to my senses. I realized that I can hardly do that myself, so how could I tell a group of other women to do it? No, instead I offered them a challenge. I offered them the challenge of keeping a holy Advent within the whirl of activity, and not secluded outside of it. If the spirit of prayerful Advent longing grows within, nothing can shake it from without.
I’m not going to give you the entire presentation because I want you to ask me to speak to your group next Advent. I do however, want to pass on to you an abbreviated version of one of the ideas that I passed onto them.
If we simply open our eyes and look around us during this sometimes stressful but ever so beautiful time of year, we can actually discover the characters of the Nativity in the world around us. All it takes is a bit of keen observation and an open heart.
Who are the characters of the Nativity? Well, we have St. Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus, the shepherds and the Magi. Believe it or not, we are surrounded by all of these characters all Advent long. If we pay attention to them rather than ignoring them, they will lead us deeper and deeper into the mystery and majesty of the Incarnation.
Next time you go shopping, and I’m sure you’ll be going shopping soon, look around at all the dads with their children. They can be reminders to us of St. Joseph. Can you think of other figures who can remind us of St. Joseph? Who might they be?
Every time I see a pregnant woman, I’m reminded of our Blessed Mother. Thanks be to God, there still seem to be plenty of pregnant moms around! Can you think of other figures who can remind us of Mary? Who might they be?
Baby Jesus can be found in the arms of every mother carrying an infant, but also in the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Tabernacle, and the Monstrance. Are there other places we can discover him?
The shepherds can easily be spotted in our Holy Father, our Bishops, and priests as they all act in reality to shepherd God’s people. But, are there other shepherd figures out there this Advent? Who might they be?
The Magi will be apparent to us in every person who gives us a gift this Christmas. That’s where the custom of giving Christmas gifts came from in the first place. But there are gifts we receive that aren’t wrapped in patterned paper and silky ribbons. Who are the Magi that gave them to us?
If we look with our eyes and heart wide open, we’ll detect the characters of the Nativity everywhere this Advent. Then the craziness and demands of the whirl won’t be a drudge but rather a joyful and exciting adventure. Each sighting will draw us deeper and deeper into the heart of the Christ Child as we’re reminded that He’s coming! He’s coming and He wants to be born again in our hearts on Christmas Morning.