“Make room for all within you that is not Christ”


The Season of Advent

On Sunday, we begin the season of Advent. It is a season rich in imagery, symbol, music and prayer.  Our readings from Scripture are filled with hope and longing as the Israelite people wait and watch for their long-awaited savior. I am always struck that the longing is not passive.  The prophets preach “prepare the way of the Lord,” and “make straight a path.” This is not the longing of a lover waiting patiently for the return of the beloved but rather an action-oriented preparation that has us watching, waiting, searching for signs of the Lord’s arrival.

Be Counter-Cultural: Celebrate Advent

Unfortunately, all of this richness is lost on a world that started celebrating Christmas before we finished our Halloween candy and if the GAP has its way—suggesting we “liberate” ourselves from Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa and just party. See. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVMPWlWDvsI.

Give yourself an early Christmas present and celebrate Advent in a meaningful way. Set time aside to make a bigger space in your life for Jesus. The quote in my title comes from a reflection by Thomas Merton on Advent. Just as Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn, Merton suggests that the spiritual preparation of the Advent season is to ask ourselves where in our own lives there is no room for Jesus.

Here our a few suggestions for celebrating Advent:

1. Buy or make an Advent wreath. It can be as simple as a circle of three purple and one pink votives, or it can be greenery, wreaths and bows. Light the candle for daily prayer or during meals

2. Relish the Readings. Read and reflect on the readings for the day, practice the prayer of Lectio Divina to experience their richness and promise. See http://www.valyermo.com/ld-art.html.

3. WAIT for Christmas. In many cultures, it is not until the third Sunday of Advent that people begin to decorate for Christmas. In both my and my husband’s families, we do not put the tree up until Christmas Eve morning, to mark the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas (my mother also admits it kept the excitement level of me and my eight siblings more manageable!). Why not wait to decorate or decorate a little each week as a practice or both waiting and preparing.

4. “Be on Guard!”  The prophets teach that we must be ready and recognize the Messiah when he comes. Consider adding daily Mass (if you don’t already) to your Christmas preparation. I think the four-week season is perfect for deciding to pray in a new way—it’s not such a long commitment, so take up the Liturgy of the Hours, or Lectio Divina or Centering Prayer and see how you like it. Make room for Confession before Christmas.

5. Read something spiritual. Set aside some quiet time to read something spiritual or listen to some of the great Advent music that is part of the Church’s tradition (helps not being sick of Christmas carols when Christmas finally comes!).

Feel free to share other ideas with us.  Happy Advent

12 Replies to ““Make room for all within you that is not Christ””

  1. Thanks for this counter-cultural post! I also must thank you for decoding the GAP comercial. Maybe I am hard of hearing, but I had no earthly idea what it was about. The words are spoken so fast etc. As commercials go I think this one is a failure (happily so) since it fails to communicate, at least with me. I will celebrate Advent and THEN Christmas, all 12 days!

  2. The last bit about not being sick of Christmas Carols when Christmas comes made me chuckle! One local radio station made the leap to Christmas music last week.

    I was wondering- has it been decided yet? Does our nation have a National Christmas Tree or a National Holiday Tree? I was happy to see an info link in our bulletin this week about Keeping Christ in Christmas.

    1. A quick Google search reveals we call it the National Christmas Tree and also the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center in New York.

  3. Perhaps the marketing team missed a great advertising opportunity: G – God is
    A – always
    P – present!

  4. I get to work on Christmas this year. It came as quite a shock to my family when I announced this the other day. Of course, hospitals are open 24/7, so we all get to take a turn working the holidays.

    I celebrate Advent and Christmas by trying to get to daily mass more, and doing more spiritual reading. At the hospital, we will probably celebrate by giving one another Christmas stockings and having a nice dinner. Because I am night shift, i have to work Christmas Eve and Christmas day night. I am hoping I will make it to at least one mass on one of the two days.

    Advent and Christmas focus so much on giving, and maybe we can all take that attitude all year. Here’s to wishing everyone a happy Advent and Christmas!

  5. This is one of my favorite Advent readings: Luke 1:68-79. It is called the Canticle of Zechariah or Benedictus. After many months of Zechariah the priest not being able to speak, he is finally able to praise the Lord His marvelous deeds. I specially like the phrase: You, My child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. Blessed Advent! May you claim your freedom to worhip God without fear.

    Blessed be the Lord,
    The God of Israel;
    He has come to His people and set them free.

    He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
    Born of the house of His servant David.

    Through His holy prophets He promised of old
    That He would save us from our enemies,
    From the hands of all who hate us.

    He promised to show mercy to our fathers
    And to remember His holy Covenant.

    This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
    To set us free from the hands of our enemies,
    Free to worship Him without fear,
    Holy and righteous in His sight
    All the days of our life.

    You, My child shall be called
    The prophet of the Most High,
    For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
    To give his people knowledge of salvation
    By the forgiveness of their sins.

    In the tender compassion of our Lord
    The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
    to shine on those who dwell in darkness
    And the shadow of death,
    And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

    Glory to the Father,
    and to the Son,
    and to the Holy Spirit.
    As it was in the beginning.
    is now, and will be forever.


  6. Thank you, there is much for reflection in this beautiufl reading from Isaiah, which is also found in Morning Prayer.

  7. My ex-wife calls me the “Advent Nazi” because I always get so annoyed by people celebrating Christmas for a month or more before the Christmas season, and then NOT celebrating during the season except for Christmas day. I especially wish we heard more of the beautiful music written for advent. Thanks for reminding me there are some others out there who feel the same way.

    1. Mike, this is the campaign for you! I agree Advent music is hard to find, I think our Northern European Catholics can teach us something about this; their dioceses are full of Advent concerts and they celebrate from Christmas to Epiphany. I am planning another blog on keeping the twelve days of Christmas! Happy Advent.

  8. Thank you, Susan for a beautiful post (as always!)

    I wanted to offer an idea for teaching children about the waiting and longing for Jesus during Advent. (This excerpt is from http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Advent/)

    “If children never hear us talk about what we long for from the Lord, how will they learn about this kind of longing? And, if they hear “the coming of Jesus” talked about at church, and perhaps at school, but never hear us talk about the meaning of the coming of Jesus for us, what kind of message will we be giving them? We want to open up Advent for them, so that they can get ready for – look forward to – Christmas in a different way.

    Before we just put a Nativity scene there, we can let it be an empty space for a while. We can prepare for setting it up, by putting things in that place which represent the longing, the desire, the emptiness. Perhaps that place can begin with a basket. Children can place notes in the basket that express what they hope for, for each member in the family, for their friends, for people in the world. They can write special prayers for loved ones who are sick, for children in their school who are difficult. We can keep telling the children that it is into this special place of our longing and faith that Jesus comes. Then, when we set up the Nativity scene in that place, it can become a special place for the children.”

  9. Thank you for sharing this practice, which can really help children understand the meaning of Christmas.

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