We light candles. We trim the trees. We festoon the house with light, because right now, the world feels very dark indeed. The question we need to ask ourselves as we prepare for the birth of Christ is, are we on fire interiorly? Are we the light to the world we’re called to be? Are we the star that shows the way to the wise men and those who merely seek?

Do we speak when others tell us to be silent? Do we see when others tell us not to look? Do we recognize evil when we see it and call it out irrespective of who advocates or benefits from the policies? Do we see the reality that the poor, the imprisoned, the addicted, the homeless, the weak, the elderly and the infirm are our brothers and sisters, or are they shunted to others, not our problem? Are we generous with others of our time, our talent and our treasure? Do we give of our surplus or our whole selves? Do we see Christ in the face of every person we encounter, whether in line to purchase groceries or stuck in traffic? Do we see Christ suffering in everyone around us?

Or are we safe, under a bushel basket, with closed doors, eschewing any opportunity to be seen, in favor of fitting in and feeling comfortable. To stand out is to stand up for Christ, and that means going against both the powerful and the popular, and not presuming that this means fitting in anywhere.

The people who first recognized the Christ child came from elsewhere, from far away, and from the fields and fringes of society. They weren’t the in crowd. They were three magi from far away, and shepherds. 

Acknowledging Christ is always dangerous. The three kings, after being warned in a dream, avoided King Herod when they had placed their gifts before the Christ. Peter knew the risks too and denied him three times. Every martyr understood that to stand for Christ is to renounce the world. Advent is a time of preparing, of waiting for Christ. Advent is a time of preparing our souls, trimming them with oil, so that when the bridegroom comes, we will light our lamps and go in. So, here we are in the third week of Advent. Are we ready? If not, let us begin.