Despite the color and glitter of the season there are many who haven’t yet feel the vibrant spirit of Christmas — yes, many are facing varying challenges in these times. I know because I have friends who share these anxieties. There are also some of them who don’t feel alright whether in their work, in their businesses, and in their relationships. For most of them, something is missing, something just doesn’t feel good.
This is true even around the places we go through every day. If we have that sensitive ability to detect and communicate with others, we’ll be able to know the worries and anxieties affecting people mostly. The world isn’t always what it looks like. Deep down inside, people are sad and lonely. Yet when you go outside your home, you can feel that people are all getting occupied seeing them line up the malls and shopping centers. Hotels and resorts are getting booked for the traditional Christmas dinners and parties. Everyone is hurrying up to buy gifts for their loved ones and friends. This busyness is also a tempting time to miss the real reason for the event, which is the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The purpose of Advent is most importantly to prepare our own spiritual growth thus in a way preparing our hearts and souls to welcome the Savior not only in each Christmas, but also at any time when His Kingdom is fully revealed.
The readings in today’s Gospel remind us to hope, to appreciate the God who loves us through and through, and to prepare the way for His coming birth. In the First Reading (Bar. 5: 1-9) the Prophet Baruch tells us that God will save His people and splendor will be restored in His city Jerusalem. His people who have been dispersed abroad will return triumphant and with great rejoicing. This is a promise of hope for those who live in fear and misery. God assures that He will remember everyone who trust and are faithful to Him.
In the Second Reading (Phil. 1: 4-6, 8-11) St. Paul tells his gratitude to the Philippians for all that they have done in helping him to spread the Word of God. Just like them, he prays that God will bless those who remain faithful and that your love for each other and for God will be blessed “more and more”. This love for God helps us to develop that discernment to know what is essential and of value to the Lord as we prepare for the day of His coming.
In the Psalms (Ps. 126: 1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6) today we proclaim: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!” However, it isn’t easy to experience joy when you are facing challenges and difficulties. It takes faith that the Lord has done great things for us, that we experience joy, not that we deserve it, but because of God’s loving mercy and compassion. We can’t appreciate and be aware of these unless we repent from our sins. This season, take the time to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to restore the lines broken by our indifference and arrogance.
Thus in our Gospel (Lk. 3: 1-6) St. John the Baptist proclaims for us to “Prepare the way” for Jesus Christ. The prophecy of Isaiah who said that there would be a forerunner to the Messiah is fulfilled as St. John preached baptism for the forgiveness of sins. This is a reminder to us that now is the time to make our preparations for the Lord’s coming, now is the time to make a straight and open path into our hearts for the Savior who will come to us this Christmas.
You are to straighten up your broken ways and get back to the straight path. You are asked to bring down your pride and ego, as these blur you from recognizing the Savior in the manger.
As we go on this Advent journey, let us ask ourselves what crooked ways do we need to straighten and what mountains do we need to level down in anticipation of the Lord’s coming?
‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.’ (Ps. 126: 3)