Advent: Ready or Not, Here It Is!

“Be still and know that I am God.” —Psalms 46:10

Empty Nativity SceneAdvent is upon us, and as usual it has caught me off-guard. Christmas trees appeared in stores at Halloween this year, and everything in me rebelled. Stop! Let us enjoy the seasons as they come, let us have Thanksgiving first. There is a time for everything, after all.

Well, the time has come, and even with all the advance notice of Christmas sales, I’m not ready. But perhaps that is the point. We need time to get ready, and so the Church in her wisdom gives us Advent.

By the end of the year, my calendar is black with ink and my soul feels dark and crowded. I need some light. Turning to Luke’s account of the very first Advent, I’m struck by the beginning. It’s not about Mary yet, but Elizabeth and Zechariah. Upright, observant people “but they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.” Luke begins with emptiness; a barren womb; an old couple who surely felt their time was past. Zechariah is so certain of that fact, even an angel can’t convince him otherwise. He is afraid. He doubts. He does not believe.

I am there sometimes, in spirit. How can Jesus come to me? There is no room for welcome in my soul. But wait—notice what happens to Zechariah and Elizabeth. They may not be ready, and they may doubt, but that doesn’t mean God will withhold his blessing. Zechariah goes home and his wife becomes pregnant—in spite of his doubts, he acts and the Lord blesses.

Another thing stands out as I read: Zechariah is struck silent and Elizabeth goes into seclusion as they wait. The silence of Zechariah may have been punishment for unbelief, but it also may have been remedy. When I feel barren, I work to fill the void with noise and activity. God knows this, and gives me (and us all) the gift of Advent: a time of quiet waiting, a time of emptying, time to turn a hollow void into a waiting manger.


 

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Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Marianne

    Christmas is just around the corner, and I am not ready! Just a couple weeks away, and so much to do!

    After a few weeks of craziness, I’ve deliberately “slowed down” this week. Instead of rushing to get everything done (after working 10 hour days) I decided that it’s all right to take a break; it’s all right if I don’t finish decorating the tree or if my house isn’t in perfect
    order.

    I like what Sarah says about waiting and silence. What matters most is to spend some of that quiet time with the Lord, to remember what’s really important in life.

    In the First Reading today, it was written, “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not
    grow weary, walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:31). And in the Gospel, Jesus said to the crowds, “Come
    to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Oh, how Scripture refreshes the weary soul!

    So when we feel overwhelmed by all the pressures of the season, let’s take a break from all the commercialism and go straight to the Source of Life. Let’s remember why Jesus was born… God’s gift to us. And let’s remember His Mother on December 12, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. May we strive to become more like Mary, so obedient and so faithful, so quick to say “Yes” to God.

    How can we say “Yes” to God this Advent?