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"Help me prepare, Lord" by Hillary Ibarra (CatholicMom.com) Olive wood carving of the Nativity by Bethlehem Christians. Copyright 2019 Hillary Ibarra. All rights reserved.[/caption]
And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name." (Luke 1:46-49; New American Bible)
We sang this Scripture passage in church, and I wept. Even as my youngest children squirmed and fussed beside me, I was caught up in this hymn after Communion. I heard a fellow parishioner near me singing the words with humble sincerity. It didn't matter whether he was or was not on pitch, because simplicity and honesty were there - a more perfect harmony. If I could spend more of Advent in church, I would be far better off. My emotions would not be vacillating so much between the merry yule-tide activities and the many stressful obligations performed with a silent Bah! Humbug! I want to look forward to Christmas, but I am too busy telling myself to just get through this and then that. That's no way to live. And it’s not the way to spend Advent, I know: just waiting for Christmas only so it can be done with and over. All obligations performed. All things crossed off lists. All gifts bought and given. What about that first awesome gift of a Redeemer, “veiled in flesh”? – Emmanuel, God with us. Advent is a time of preparation for Him, Lord of lords, a time of expectation, of hope. It’s meant to be a time when we prepare to celebrate the Christmas season more joyfully, when we prepare our hearts and souls to proclaim the greatness of the Lord with humble sincerity. It's also the time when we look forward to Christ's second coming and our need always to be ready for him, our King of kings. I know this about Advent, and this season of preparation has changed Christmas for me since becoming Catholic, has deepened the mystery and helped me to celebrate more joyfully that beautiful Baby in a manger, causing me to contemplate deep spiritual things in a time flooded with consumerism and excess. Yet halfway through it, I still often become grumpy and disillusioned, beating myself up for not meeting my own gift-buying or making expectations, comparing my traditions and even my tree-decorating skills to those of others on Facebook, and tempted to inertia beneath the weight of fresh obligations and age-old chores. Even the spiritual opportunities God has given me in past Advent seasons I have not appreciated as I should have, wanting to get through them, taking them off a growing list in my head. It is only through prayer, and thus by His grace, guidance, and inspiration that they turned out well for the children and adults with whom I worked, whom I tried to serve as best I could, because they belong to Jesus. They belong to Jesus: that's the message I must embrace right now. Everything I do in anticipation of Christmas Day – for any loved one or stranger – I must unite to Jesus, our God Who chose a poor couple for His family: chose to be born in a stable, placed in a manger; chose to have His birth announced to lowly, lonely shepherds. Our Lord, meek and humble of heart, how great Thou art! What a difference it might make if I strove to be even more like him at this time of year, if I read Scripture every morning and prayed longer before entering the holiday fray! I hate shopping sometimes, but what if I shopped for others in a spirit of selflessness and sacrifice? What if I looked for opportunities to volunteer and in ways and places I never have before? What if I tried to make everything a prayer amid the hustle and bustle, smiling at grumpy fellow shoppers and frazzled cashiers all the way and striving to be meek and peaceful (no matter what) where peace is sorely needed? What if every word and action was a proclamation of faith, because of the peace and joy with which my fellow Christians and I spoke and acted this Advent? The world may see in us the tiny Babe in a manger, the Christ in Christmas, and in grateful spirit proclaim, “The Lord is with you!”
"His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever." (Luke 1:50-55)
"Help me prepare, Lord" by Hillary Ibarra (CatholicMom.com) Copyright 2019 Hillary Ibarra. All rights reserved.[/caption]
Copyright 2019 Hillary Ibarra