Christmas Is Coming — Prepare the Way of the Lord

Practice Advent as the art of joyful waiting for Jesus Christ

Andrei Rublev, “The Nativity of the Lord,” 15th Century
Andrei Rublev, “The Nativity of the Lord,” 15th Century (photo: Public Domain)

In the Fourth Week of Advent, the pressure is on to get everything done before Christmas. Buy this, mail that, eat this, order that online. The crunch of time threatens to drown Advent in errands that promise perfection and deliver exhaustion and an emptiness that is all this world ever can deliver.

It’s why Advent remains so important. The lighting of the candle at home is a quiet reminder of the true purpose of these four weeks — to prepare for Christ. However, while we all know how to prepare for celebrating the feast of Christmas through the busy-ness of lists, cards, shopping, shipping and wrapping, preparing for Christ takes a different sort of mindfulness.

(1) Begin with listening to or reading the daily Scripture readings, because the Holy Spirit will speak to your heart directly about how to make room at the inn. This is a time to beg the Holy Spirit to make our hearts anew.

(2) Still feeling restless, like you don’t know how to start? Run to the sacraments. I remember when we were first allowed to return to the Mass to receive in person after the initial shutdown from COVID-19, how grateful I felt to experience the Holy Eucharist. Recall the reality that at each Mass, you get to be intimately close to Jesus as Mary and Joseph were. Go to confession and add an extra Mass when possible. The graces that come from scrubbing the soul free from sin are a starting point. Responding to those graces — that’s the next step.

(3) Give generously in others’ names. This is a scary step, a leap into the unknown. To give to a charity in another’s name, that is a gift. It requires a willingness to be a cheerful giver — but it is the surest way we will not one day say, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and not feed you? Or naked and not clothe you?”

(4) Practice fasting, which steels the will against being filled in our lower appetites instead of longing for the greater food that is the Eucharist. We live in a society that is saturated with everything except God. It makes it hard to recognize the One for whom we are actually starving. It can be as little as (cheerfully) doing a chore for someone else, or spending our first wakeful moments in prayer. It can be denying yourself access to social media, or surrendering a small treat like chocolate or coffee — any comfort that we give up for the One in whose heart we can fully rest. 

(5) Practice deliberate beauty. The lights, the flowers, the tree — all of these things do not take away from this season of Advent, they are in anticipation. Cultivate anticipation by setting up the nativity scene, by putting on seasonal music that isn’t simply secular, and by making one part of your daily list of things to do about somehow cultivating a longing for the birth of our Lord.

Christmas is coming. Prepare the way for the Lord by making sure your hearth and home and heart are eagerly awaiting the Lord, and the rest will still happen. You will know the joy of the shepherds and the kings, because Advent — the art of joyful waiting for Christ — becomes a reality.