Making Advent PERSONAL

agonyinthegardenDuring this season of Advent, we’re called to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, both at Christmas and at the end of time.  We should examine our lives and ask ourselves—“Am I ready for Him?”  Many of us will go to confession and many parishes will offer Advent penance services to make this more convenient for us at such a busy time of year.  Advent is always a hopeful season because our hope is in Christ, Who never disappoints.  We wait and we watch for Him and we remember and celebrate the great gift of His Incarnation.  God chose to leave His heavenly throne to be born as one of us, to live and to live, to work and to suffer as one of us.  He came to save us from our sins and to die in our place so that we can know heaven for all eternity.
 
This is all true, of course.  But until you allow Christ to transform these facts into a deep and true relationship with Him your life is incomplete and unredeemed.  You may have a religion, but not a living faith.  There’s a time in all our lives when we have to know in our hearts:  Christ died for ME.  No theory or historical review will work.  Christ suffered and died on the cross for me.  For my sins.  And no sinner deserved that less than me.  You hear Him say to you:  “I love you so much t I want nothing more than to suffer and die for you, to set you free, to give you full life.”  I think our Evangelical brothers and sisters get this right, and we can learn from them.  Before Jesus, there was an abyss between man and God, larger, wider, darker and deeper than the depths of the sea.  No amount of our own efforts could span it.  No matter how many burnt offering we sacrificed, it remained.  Steadfast.  Immense.  Heartbreaking.  We longed for the Light, yet we stumbled on in the darkness of our sins.  Only a baby born in a Palestinian stable could reach from heaven and into our hearts.
 
God could have saved us in another way.  It didn’t have to involve the cruel death of His only Son.  But God always heals us personally, never at a distance, and never without involving us in the healing.  Think of all the miraculous healings that Jesus accomplished.  All the times He spoke with the afflicted person, touched them, comforted them and asked them what they wanted Him to do for them.  It’s just the same with you and with me.  He wants to know us, to know who we are and we need.  Of course, He already knows, but His heart’s desire is to be in a relationship with us.  He’s asking you, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  We have to play an active part in building the Kingdom of God, first in our hearts and lives, and also in the world.

Life is short.  Eternity isn’t.  We only get one chance to get it right.  You can’t go through life as a spectator of your own redemption.  You have to be an active player and the context of our redemptive work in in His Church.  He never meant for us to work out this life (or the next one) on our own.  He gave us a Church and through this Church, His holy Scripture (Matthew 16:18).  The story of Scripture is God’s unfolding love for us.  Christmas is the promise of that love made known to us in the flesh.  Jesus loved you as He lay in Bethlehem’s manger, surrounded by the warmth and smell of the animals.  He loved you as He taught in His Father’s house, as Mary and Joseph searched for Him.  He loved you for thirty years as He worked with Joseph in Nazareth and grew to manhood in Mary’s holy and loving home.  He loved you when the devil tempted Him in the desert, and when His cousin John baptized Him in the river.  As He called each of His disciples to follow Him, He called you to do the same.  Every time He healed a leper, forgave a sinner, or made a blind man see, He was healing and forgiving you, too.  That night in the Garden, while you and the others were sleeping, He felt the weight of your sins crushing Him, and He loved you more.  When they led Him away in the chains of your slavery to sin, He was thinking of you and loving you.  Every blow of the whip on His scourged back cried out, “Love! Love!,” as He bore the pain that you and I deserved.  Jesus created the shrub that grew the thorns that tore His scalp when the soldiers (that He created and loved and died for) crowned Him.  He caused the seed to grow into the tree that made the wood of His Cross.  He created the ore that made the iron for the nails and the spear that pierced His side.  As He hung there, pouring out His life for you and me, He held those nails and that wood in existence as they pierced His Body and drained away His human life.  His eternal joy was in giving Himself away for you, so that you could be saved.
 
Salvation isn’t a theory or a study course.  Salvation is a Person—Jesus, the Christ.  During this season of Advent, consider if your relationship with Him is the center of your life.  If it isn’t, this is the time to make it so.  Today is the day to make yourself ready for His coming.  There’s a beautiful message in every Mass where we affirm that we are waiting for God “in joyful hope.”  That’s what Advent is:  a time of joyful hope.  Don’t waste this opportunity to say “yes” to the love of Christ.  Not a theory.  Not an idea—but the love of the Person Who made you and Who died for your sins, in your place.  Make no mistake:  it’s personal. 
 
“What good does it do me if Christ was born in Bethlehem once if He is not born again in my heart through faith?”
                                                                       —Origen (184 – 253 A.D.)

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