Since becoming a Catholic a few years ago, I have grown to love the Church’s liturgical seasons. The rhythm of the year is counted out by times of anticipation, times of penance, times of celebration. I especially appreciate Advent, those weeks when the Church gives us Scriptures from the Old Testament prophets that look forward to the coming of the promised Messiah; Scriptures fulfilled by Jesus’ birth. The Church also gives us texts regarding His second coming and the need to be watchful and ready, for Advent – like Lent – is a “penitential” season, a time to “clean house” in the soul, to prepare.
Readying myself for Christmas used to mean getting all the gifts and wrapping them, decorating the house, baking cookies, and planning menus for get-togethers. This year however, all that preparation is muted and diminished because of the virus and its limitations. And so I find myself having more space in my head for some other things. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about readying myself to welcome my King, whose coming all the other things are meant to celebrate.
I’ve been going over and over again the words of a classic Advent hymn, written by an 18th century Protestant cleric, Charles Wesley:
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus, Born to set thy people free.
From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth thou art.
Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart!
Born thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King.
Born to reign in us forever, Now thy gracious Kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone.
By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne!”
Thinking about Christmas as a time to welcome a King has helped me to prioritize the internal preparation that I must do as I look forward to receiving such an important Guest. For Jesus comes not only to be Savior of the world, but my Savior, my King. My heart may be only a humble “stable”, but I at least want it to be a clean, tidy place to receive Him.