Hey there! Happy Advent! Hopefully you’ve all survived Thanksgiving, and have started a new pre-Christmas tradition with Advent. I dug out one of my many Advent reflection books and dusted it off to enjoy this year. But before we talk about Advent some more, grab a cup of cider or something and find a comfy spot to sit and relax for a minute. In the mad rush that Christmas has become, we all need to take a minute and just breathe.
Last time, I was talking about Advent and the wreath, and the candles and the traditions. We talked about the colors of advent, with purple and rose. (Yes, rose. Please don’t say ‘pink’ to my pastor! Apparently some people only think of Pepto if you say the word pink. As a quilter and craftsy person, pink means a dusty pink to me – pretty much a ‘rose’, lol.) How’d I get there? Back to the subject!
I mentioned that Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for Jesus to come. He did come, 2000 years ago, as a little baby in a cave in Bethlehem. I was just there last month, and it was breathtaking. Just a cave, with a huge and elaborate church built above it, but it was a bit difficult getting to the place where He was born. It took a bit of effort to reach it and then to bow down low enough to touch the star they’ve placed there to mark the spot. The folks who built the church purposely made it so that you have to kneel down to touch the star. That outward humility can either feel ‘forced’ or it can be gladly welcomed as a choice in our own hearts.
Advent also remembers that He will come again in the future, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, vanquishing His enemies forever.
Finally, Advent is a time to invite Him to come more fully into our own hearts and lives in the present. We can invite Him to come into the dark places in us and bring His light, to set us free from the darkness that has a place in us.
Purple is a color of repentance, of penance, of prayer, of sacrifice and good works. That may sound dreary and dismal, even downright distasteful to some folks. But in reality, there is so much life there! We all usually know when we’re doing something wrong, for the most part. I do believe that we have blind spots and weaknesses we may not even recognize, and He wants to help us with those, too. That’s one place where prayer comes in. But largely, we know our own failings, places we aren’t doing as well as we should or could, places where we are absolutely wrong but sticking to our guns. Advent gives us time to look at these places with honesty and humility, and pray about them. Advent encourages us to gain the ‘broken and contrite heart’ David speaks of in Psalm 51. Advent allows us time to discover, then to come to Jesus for healing, places that separate us from Him, and allows us to receive Him more fully into our lives. That’s not dismal. That’s not dreary. That’s joy unspeakable!
You’ve probably heard the terms contrition and repentance. Sometimes we get the idea that those things require buckets of tears and days of prayer and fasting on our part. But contrition and repentance isn’t a big dramatic production. It’s simply being sorry we hurt Jesus’ heart. We don’t need to wallow there, just own our sin and the pain it’s caused everyone involved – ourselves, God and others who are impacted. Then, we can ask Him to forgive us, to heal us, to make us more like Him. What joy there is when we come to Him for healing and the freedom that results!
As you go through this Advent season, I encourage you to be bold. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you take an honest look at your heart and your life. Allow His light to penetrate your darkness, and bring healing and light and life. If you need help looking, or if you find things you need help with, just contact a priest or pastor. Even if the denomination doesn’t observe Advent, they will be happy to help you come closer to Jesus. If you’re Catholic, don’t hesitate to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. What a beautiful and tangible way to receive His mercy and light into your life. As an RCIA candidate, I’m longing for the day when I can receive all the sacraments of this beautiful faith.
Until then, I’ll observe Advent and continue to draw as near to Him as I can. He’s right here, waiting with open arms.