My oldest son Joshua is in his first year at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire. He sent me this reflection on Advent that I felt is worth of sharing. So, as Joshua would say, "Sit back with your favorite hot beverage, have a bite to tuck in (maybe Mary's Blessed Bars) if you are feeling peckish, and read away!"
Advent is the season of preparation before Christmas. In the liturgical year, the First Sunday of Advent is the start of a renewed cycle, a new year's day, so to speak. This new beginning offers us a chance to refocus our lives on the Gospel events around which the Christian life ought to be centered. Advent is, like Lent, a time of penance and interior preparation for the celebration of Our Lord's birth. It is, however, a less solemn season, for no occasion can be more joyous than the coming of Him who was so long-expected, the fulfillment of all human hope in the form of a helpless infant. But before we can celebrate the coming of the Christ Child, there must first be sufficient preparation. To mark the coming of Christmas we light candles, hang greens, sing carols. These visible signs of eager anticipation, though they are good things in themselves, must not be the only preparation we make.
Advent is a time for interior change, to once again “put off the old man” (Eph. 4:22), as St. Paul writes. In the four weeks before Christmas, we journey with the Magi through the wilderness, seeking the light of Christ by denying self and turning to God in faith and humility. We journey with Mary and Joseph to welcome the coming of the Messiah in our hearts, heeding St. John the Baptist's proclamation to “prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mt. 3:3). Although the journey to Bethlehem is short, it nonetheless must be made if we truly desire to better grasp the living reality of Christ in our lives. This journey is not made alone, but is guided by the grace of God, particularly through the frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Penance.
By humbling ourselves before the Lord, we allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us into his likeness. It is only when we are made “like a little child” (Mt. 18:3) that we can better understand the Infant in the Manger. Then, once we behold the baby Jesus in the arms of his mother—“round yon Virgin, mother and child”—we cannot repress our joy, but like the shepherds live our lives “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen”(Lk. 2:20). Finally, Advent is a reminder to cast aside all sin and pursue a life of holiness, for though the Christ Child has already come once in history—”et verbum caro factum est”―he will return again in glory.