I was thinking how often we don’t want to get ready for Christmas, we really just want it to happen and get it over with. We have our Christmas tree up, our stocking out since Halloween. We are ready so bring on the goods and feasting. Some cultures now have Christmas in July. They don’t mean Jesus Christ is coming so get ready in July, but rather, let’s have presents in July. I was living with a fellow priest and it shocked me that he would open his presents early, whenever he got them. I always thought that wasn’t right and we need to wait until that day of Christmas. I also think that if we do not take the time to spiritually prepare for Christmas, we will walk away feeling that something was missing.
Christmas is a time of joy for most, though not for all. Some hate Christmas because everyone says Christmas is about the family. It is not about the family though, it is about Jesus coming into the world to bring peace and transformation. That event brings about what is good in our families. The food, the gifts, none of these things will do it. I remember Christmas after Christmas being totally unprepared spiritually and the gifts being a downer because there was all this joyful expectation and it didn’t happen. I really remember one particular Christmas and thinking something was missing. I was nineteen or twenty at the time and all my focus was on the girlfriend I had at the time. I was thinking as Christmas was approaching that I had no spirit of Christmas so I went out and got a Christmas tree and decorated it. But you know what? It didn’t work because I was too far away from the meaning of Christ coming into the world that it didn’t matter how many gifts I could buy for people, it would not have made me happy because Christmas was a loss to me. I now believe two things about these great events in our lives. The first being if there is an expectation it can be met or exceeded if lived properly and, secondly, if your expectations weren’t met or exceeded you are doing something wrong and need to take inventory so you don’t repeat the same mistakes again, otherwise you will get calloused. So what is Christmas about? It is about Christ taking flesh and living among us. If our preparations are not directly related to that, we will be disappointed. If they are, our expectations will be greatly exceeded. I mean really, how could a tree or presents take the place of God?
So what are you doing to get ready for this Christmas? What ways are you going to spiritually prepare yourself to know Jesus better? If we do not plan, it most likely will not happen. You are in luck if you are drawing a blank right now though because I have some suggestions. One thing you should do is make sure you go to confession. We all know the need to clean our house before important visitors and confession is how we do that. You might think, “Father, what sins do I have to confess?” Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the dirt in your house so that you can get it cleaned. One thing that I believe we all could easily confess is that we have not tried hard to become great saints this year. We have not tried with our whole hearts to love Jesus. So go to confession and clean your heart. Our penitential service is on December 14th this year. The Church gives us many helps. One is the tradition of the Advent wreath. Another is the Mass readings where those Scriptures are about preparation for God. One thing that is a great question to ask is, “Jesus, how do you want me to get ready for this Christmas?” When you are reading the different readings, ask God, “What do you want to tell me? What is important? How can I receive you better this year?” For married couples, I encourage you to renew your wedding vows and ask for the grace to really live them faithfully. Your marriage is an image of the incarnational love of God. Review them often and ask for grace to start living your vows. Ask yourself if you are treating your spouse like they are Christ. I conveniently made an Advent booklet to help you prepare if you would like. We must plan to have a successful Advent. Just to get you excited about reading Scripture, look at the First Reading today. Isaiah said, “it is your fault, God, that we sinned.” Is that really right? I don’t know but meditate on it and see where God takes you.
I have asked you to think how much of your preparation for Christmas is directly related to Jesus coming into our lives and hoping for a great transformation. How much of our preparation has to do with asking to reflect God’s love in our lives? If the answer is none or a little or a bit, adjust it accordingly so that you can have the best Christmas ever.