Advent is a wonderful season of grace for each of us. A time to prepare to receive Jesus more fully this Christmas. Advent is about readying one’s heart for the Son of God to be born anew in you again. Advent is a time of hopeful expectation that Jesus will heed our ardent longing that He abide more completely within us. If our desire for Jesus is great, our whole being will become centered in the joy that will accompany His presence with us.
Thomas Merton, writing about this advent of Christ, says, “What joy is ours when we find Jesus, the light of the universe. Heaven and earth become one in Him.”
Advent is a graced period when each person has the opportunity to begin again the struggle to end all that is not Christ-like in them. How much we need this sacred time of renewal and grace? We approach Advent in the contemplative stance, seeking greater wholeness of living Christ. Indeed, that sums up our whole vocation.
We begin to live Christ when we come to the end or to the limit of what divides us from others, when I am willing to step beyond myself to this end and cross the threshold to true love of the other. Then I can enter into the space of disinterested love, and truly be for others in their need. Then I can enter into the very place of Christ utterly alone for God and others in every way. Can we prepare our hearts to be in that new place of real freedom with Christ? Advent invites us there.
St Bernard writes of the three Advents of Christ.
The first Advent is the Logos – the Word of God – becomes incarnated in this world in order to redeem humankind. This highlights the central role of Mary in the Incarnation, since it is through her humanity that God chose to enter into our world. So, we take on her stance of openness to the Will of God and we to receive Christ.
The second Advent happen through grace, God takes up residence within us. During this Advent time, we are to create a sanctuary in our hearts for Christ, Christ wants to give himself to us, so that we possess our heaven in hope. Then one can grow in humility and make every effort to use one’s energies to do God’s will.
Saint Bernard’s third Advent is Christ’s final coming. When he returns to Earth to judge the living and the dead. This Advent reality is Christ making manifest judgement on those persons who rejected His saving grace during their lives and he passes judgment on those who in life were receptive to his salvific grace. We surely hear that truth in Matthew’s gospel in Chapter 25. When Jesus will say: When You did it to the least of these you did it to me. As St. Luke proclaims in Chapter 21 , “Let us stand secure before the Son of Man when he comes,” we too can be secure when he comes because we can say we love the Christ in each person.
Christ wills to be born in the manger, helpless that we may take him into our care. He has embraced our poverty in order to give us his riches. This emptying of self that we to must discover in and through Christ as we navigate the journey to become Christ in the world. Poor with the poor, powerless with the disenfranchised.
The deepest meaning of Christmas that we await is Joy. Christ’s birth in lowliness and poverty heralds his death that brought us his new life in the resurrection. It was John the Baptist who announced the advent of Christ’s salvific ministry. Now Christ’s followers, you and me, are called to carry forward the Baptist mission and to trust that Christ’s continued saving advents in time will give way to an everlasting Christmas of eternal life.
So tonight we enter into these days of grace, these days of awaking to the deepest message of Christ for each of us, touching us so personally in the depts of our hearts that we really will be renewed , reborn into Kingdom life with Christ here and now.