“A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him” (Isa 11: 12). Blessed Virgin Mary said to the angel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me” (Lk 1: 38). Simeon, a good, God-fearing man, who has been waiting for Israel to be  saved,  took  the  child Jesus in his arms and gave thanks to God: “Now, Lord, you have kept your promise, and you may let your servant go in peace” (Lk 2: 29).

Advent is indeed a time of joyful waiting and joyful giving. During the last week of Advent, it appears that the liturgy can no longer hide the excitement about the coming of the Lord and bursts forth in anticipatory joy. During Vespers, the ‘O’ antiphons express unrestrained exhilaration. “O Wisdom that proceeds from the mouth of the Most High, O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel. O Root of Jesse who stands as the ensign of the peoples, O Key of David and Sceptre of the House of Israel, O Orient, Splendour of eternal Light, O King of nations, the One for whom they long, O Emmanuel, the Expectation and Saviour of the nations - come to us, O Lord, Our God.” Every evening between December 17 and 24, a new “O” is sung and, slowly, waiting and welcoming, expecting  and seeing, hoping and  receiving,  future and present merge into one song of praise to the Lord who has visited his people.

It is interesting that waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting. As the Advent weeks progress, we hear more and more about the beauty and splendour of the One who is to come. The Gospel passages read during Mass all talk about the events before Jesus’  birth  and  the people ready to  receive  him. In the other readings, Prophet Isaiah heaps  prophecy  on  prophecy to strengthen  and  deepen  our hope, and the songs, lessons, commentaries,  and  antiphons all  complete  in  their  attempt to set  the stage for the Lord who is to come.

Advent leads to a growing inner stillness and joy allowing us to realise that he for whom we are waiting has already arrived and speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. Just as a mother feels the child grow in her and is not surprised on the day of the birth but joyfully receives the one she learned to know during her waiting, Jesus can be born in our life slowly and steadily and be received as the one we learned to know while waiting.

It is very difficult to accept the way of the Lord. Jesus Christ comes to us as a small, powerless child born away from home. He lives for us as a stranger in his own land. He dies for us as a criminal outside the walls of a city, rejected by his own people, misunderstood by his friends, and feeling abandoned by his God.

How can we truly celebrate the birth of Jesus?  Our crooked ways must be made straight. We must stop telling lies, and cheating. All that is not straight in our life and work e.g. gossiping, unlawful business agreements we make must be straightened out.

Moreover, the mountains and hills of our pride must be brought down. Humility is the alphabet out of which every other virtue is formed and built up. It is the soil of the garden of the soul, “the good ground” on which the Divine Sower goes forth to  sow  His seed. It is in the school of  Christ  and  from the lips of Christ Himself that we  must  learn humility. “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of heart” (Matt 11: 29). We have to come down  our harshness with people  because  we are in a high position of authority which is certainly transient. We must get rid of our commanding voice and hard words over our wife and children. The wife should correct her attitude of fighting with the husband and making him feel inferior in front of guests.

The cliff or rock of our stubbornness must be changed. It must become a plain where the soft earth can be worked by God. We need to stop thinking that we are always right and everybody else around is wrong. We must change our ways and become attentive to God, and gentle to people around us.

The prophet Isaiah continues “Let every valley be filled in” What are the valleys in us that need to be filled in? It is all that is still lacking or missing in us and which needs to be filled with God. Our little faith, our lack of understanding of our wife/husband, our lack of patience, we easily get angry over little things and we quarrel with people. All these things show that we are in need of God to fill us with His understanding, His patience, His love. It is a good way to prepare for meeting the Lord in the sacrament of Penance. Let us prepare for our Confession before Christmas.

Christ comes to us time and again in a variety of ways. His presence becomes more intense in the community particularly when we gather to pray, when we read the Scriptures and when we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Our whole life should be a continuous Advent, an ever  getting  ready  to receive Christ at his repeated comings. We should be prepared for Christ’s coming at the end of time.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary gives Advent its true character. It is indeed primarily a season of joy. In Mary, we see the beauty of Advent concentrated. She is the one in whom the waiting of Israel is most fully and most purely manifested. She is the last of the remnant of Israel for whom God shows his mercy and fulfils his promises. She is the faithful one who believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. She is the lowly handmaid, the obedient servant, the quiet contemplative. She indeed is the most prepared to receive the Lord. Let us emulate the Blessed Virgin Mary and pray for the grace to receive Jesus who is ready to come to us again at any minute or hour, to make his home spiritually within us in all his grace.


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