Making Advent a Significant and Stirring Experience by Sr. Phyllis McMurray

Advent has a way of creeping up on us. We look forward to the season, but it seems that in no time, it has passed us by. Advent is a time of longing, a time of waiting with hopeful anticipation. It is a season of preparing for the birth of Christ—the fulfillment of promise, the personification of Good News, and the presence of God in our midst.

Advent can be a significant and stirring experience for us if we allow ourselves to welcome the surprises that we see unfolding in the scriptures of the season. We could do this by hearing the old story in new ways, looking at the familiar events through open eyes and hearts, and reflecting on the meaning of this great season with new expectations.

There are several major themes we follow during Advent season. We hear Jeremiah prophesy that the days are coming when a just shoot will be raised up for David (Jeremiah 33:14-15). We listen to John the Baptist as he echoes the words of Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Matt. 3:3). We take notice as Mary receives the message that the One who is to come “will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Luke 1:32).

One way we might take a fresh look at the scriptures is by reflecting on a new theme, perhaps spending some time with Joseph. One of the more silent characters in the story, Joseph does not enter the picture until the last week of Advent. He finds out the disturbing news that Mary is with child. He must have been thoroughly confused and ridden with anxiety. Then Joseph had the dream which was even more perplexing. He was told that Mary would bear a son and he was “to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt.1:21)

What did Joseph understand from this message? What were the thoughts and feelings he might have experienced? What dreams did he hold for this baby? Would this child heal the hearts of the people? Place yourself in Joseph’s position and reflect on what went through his mind after he had his dream.

How can we be more sensitive to those who have received unsettling or disturbing news, or to those who have concerns about their health, their family or friends in need of care? They, like Joseph, may be silently carrying a great burden that could be lightened by our presence and our prayer.

As we prepare for the birth of Christ, let us remember to pray for all our brothers and sisters around the world that peace may reign in their hearts and homes. May you have a blessed Advent season.

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