As we progress down the road of Advent towards Christmas and as we prepare ourselves spiritual to again ponder the majesty of the incarnation we also can feel that we do not have enough time to adequately prepare. But we should rejoice that for us Advent is only four weeks long. The first note of Advent was struck in Genesis 3:15 when God said:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head,and you shall bruise his heel."
This passage is called the protoevangelium because it is the first announcement of the coming Messiah. Between this passage and the words of John the Baptist calling repent, repent – we have an extremely long historical season of Advent. The whole Old Testament is a developing Advent where the Israelites came to understand more and more about the coming Messiah. Especially in the Psalms in Isaiah there were more an more clues pertaining to the redeemer.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called " Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel."
Despite the scriptural clues that the Messiah would not be a secular king but a suffering servant the Israelites missed those clues. Much like our intelligence agencies prior to 9-11 they did not connect the dots and frame the information to their own view points. Though we shouldn’t be very hard on them for missing what we now see to be obvious. The New Testaments tell us much about suffering and picking up the Cross, yet we seldom seem to connect the dots to our own lives. We also frame the Gospels into what we want them to mean instead of accepting those hard truths.
In the Gospel of Luke we receive the story of Simeon whose whole life was an Advent in preparation for the incarnation.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
As the chapter on Advent on a large part of salvation history was closed, Simeon was content to depart earthly life revealed in the glorious baby Jesus. The Church provides for us the liturgical year so that we too can experience this expectation and ultimate joy. To again live out the joy at the means of our salvation. Good things come in small packages and if fact the greatest thing ever given to us came first to us as a baby.
But to have this feeling of expectation in the midst of the bustle of life is sometimes difficult. We can look back to our childhood and the expectation of Christmas morning and the gifts that we would receive. The key to preparing for Christmas is to receive this as a child.
"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
We have to become child-like to prepare for the true wonder of Christmas. To again let the wonder of the Christmas story fill our souls. Too often our society does give its sons a stone instead of a fish. In childhood the story of Santa Claus has replaced a even more wondrous story. The story of a man who knows if we are naughty or nice and who gives us gifts accordingly one day a year has superseded the true story of a man who also knows if we are naughty or nice and can give us the gift of grace everyday. Even those who deserve a moral lump of coal are maintained in the gift of existence and the necessary grace leading to repentance.
But we need to do more then to just catch the feeling of a child’s expectation towards Christmas in regards to its true meaning. We must become small and humble so that our prideful shell may slough off around us. To ponder again or the for the first time that Christ’s love for us required not a noble birth in a five-star Bethlehem hotel, but instead a manger in a cave. We need to become like the humble shepherds who were the first to receive the news of this gift to men of good will. There is so much rich mystery here for us to contemplate and if we are being too much the Martha in this season – we need to put the brakes on Martha a bit and to increase the Mary. Why not as adults that we should again have a child-like expectations towards the birth of Christ?
And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.