December 3, 2010

Advent: Just in the Nick of Time

Advent: Just in the Nick of Time

At the start of this Advent (and the new Church year) I can’t help but think of time. Though most of us are pressed for time, especially during the holidays, we shouldn’t forget that time is a gift from God. And like all of God’s gifts, his gift of time to us is perfect. We often talk of needing to find time, or to make time, to do the important things in life. But those expressions are flawed. We cannot make time. And time is not lost. God has given each of us 24 hours in a day. That’s all the time there is. That’s all the time we need. But, there is some truth in the meaning behind the expressions that we use. Advent is a good time to reflect on how we use the time that God gives us.

There is something about Advent time. There’s the expectation, the anticipation, the excitement of the holidays. But I think there is something more than that. Advent highlights the one activity we do all year long (often without realizing we are doing it): waiting. We are waiting. But waiting for what? For salvation! We are waiting for our savior.

When I was a kid, the anticipation I felt for Christmas was palpable. It was exciting! There was a joy, a happiness in the waiting. Why? Because whatever it was that I was expecting for Christmas was going to make me happy. Really happy. But, you know what? Every year, Christmas came and Christmas went. And the excitement, the exhilaration… disappeared. Usually the day after Christmas. Sometimes the day of Christmas. In those moments I felt the sting of a harsh reality: whatever it was that I hoped would make me really happy… didn’t make me really happy. And the happiness I had in waiting, in anticipating, was gone for another year. I did not recognize what I truly longed for. If you had asked me, I would have told you that I was waiting for a new Commodore 64, or a pack of Shrinky Dinks, or Rock’EM Sock’EM Fighting Robots. But, what I was really waiting for was salvation. And, at that age, I was not aware that Rock’EM Sock’EM Fighting Robots could not give me salvation. I did not know that salvation comes from God alone.

Now that I am older (and hopefully a bit wiser), I do recognize that the thing I am truly seeking is salvation, and that salvation is ultimate happiness. But, I admit that I am still dense enough to think, from time to time, that Rock’EM Sock’EM could make me happy. Or the latest iPhone app. At least in the short term. But we all know that’s not true, right?

Advent is a season of waiting. We Church-folk know that Advent is all about waiting for the Baby Jesus to be born in a manger. But I wonder, in all the hustle and bustle of the season, if we really get it. For thousands of years, the Chosen People waited for the Messiah. Sometimes they were keenly aware of their need for a savior. Sometimes they were comfortable just as they were. I guess we are really a lot like they were. I know that I am not always mindful of my need for a savior. Sure, in general, yes, I acknowledge that I cannot save myself. But in the nitty-gritty of daily life, do I always recognize my need for a savior? Do I remember that I cannot save myself? Do I recognize that Apple or Williams-Sonoma or Target cannot really make me happy? No. In the little details and situations of life, unfortunately, I often tend to believe that I can save myself and that things will make me happy. That is why I love Advent so much. If I can just quiet down and slow down, not only will I see more clearly my need for a Savior, but I will also feel more tangibly the anticipation of His arrival.

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of God is” (Eph. 5:15-17).

As we enter Advent, I take to heart these words of St. Paul. I want to make the most of the time. I pray to recognize the time of my visitation. I do not want to be blind. I want to see. I have been blind for far too long. Jesus, I long to see. And in seeing, I will pour out my praise and thanks to God.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:12-17).

God’s patience is ordered toward our salvation (cf. 2 Peter 3:15). We have just a few short weeks of Advent, before we rejoice in the coming of the Lord. Let us not waste the opportunity. Rather, let us make the most of this time. “Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

How will you make the most of your time to prepare yourself to meet Jesus this Christmas?

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Here are some resources to help make you make the most of the time this Advent:

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