Spiritual preparation for Christmas can (and should) involve actively engaging with your community
A new liturgical year is upon us. As we begin Advent, we begin Cycle C of the Lectionary readings, in which Luke is regularly proclaimed on Sundays. The season of Advent takes its name from the Latin word adventus, meaning arrival or coming. The season is a time of reflection and preparation for the arrival of Christ, and it marks the start of a new year. Our readings build on themes in the last two Sunday readings, and they invite us to plan how to use Advent as a time for spiritual growth.
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all. (1 Thes 3:12)
What can you do to increase love in your community?
How will you increase your spiritual practices during the Advent season?
What do you hope to accomplish during this liturgical year?
In the second reading from 1 Thessalonians, we hear about the importance of loving one another, an exhortation prominent in both the Old and New Testaments. In today’s reading, we receive more insight into why this should be done: to be blameless in holiness. Paul emphasizes that how we treat one another reflects, informs and impacts our relationship with God. Put another way, in order to show love and devotion to God, we must show love to one another.
What does this look like in reality? How can we “increase and abound in love” this Advent season and throughout the year? Many people spend Advent preparing to celebrate Christmas by buying gifts, decorating and preparing for gatherings with family and friends. These enjoyable activities can help to build anticipation for Christmas. In addition, and perhaps even more central to Advent, this season provides an opportunity to be more prayerful and reflective about how we spiritually prepare to draw nearer to God. The second reading reminds us that spiritual preparation for Christmas can and should involve outward engagement with one’s community. While making Christmas preparations, it would be in the spirit of the season to increase one’s service to people most in need.
In the Gospel, we hear again the image of the Son of Man in the clouds. This image is repeated at this point in the Lectionary, as it has been over the last two Sundays, to connect the coming of Christ at Christmas with the vision described in Daniel. In addition, as is typical for Advent readings, the Gospel focuses on anticipation and preparation. The reading contains very ominous language of fright, wariness, anxiety and vigilance. By starting Advent in this way, the Lectionary heightens the intensity of the season, stressing that we must prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival.
The Gospel also warns us against things that can make us less alert and less focused on Christ’s arrival, such as drunkenness and anxieties of daily life. During Advent, which is often filled with much festivity and activity, we are reminded not to be overly consumed with these things that can distract from our primary focus of the season. We should use the new liturgical season to review our actions and priorities and work to sustain and strengthen our relationship with God and one another.