Advent 2018 Reflections
Advent, it's a time of preparation. If you think back on the year, what’s the most important thing that happened to you this year? Or, what was the most important thing you did this year, and how did you prepare for it?
There's a big difference between knowing about someone versus actually knowing them. This Advent, we want to get to know Jesus, not just know about him. That's what Advent is about—preparing to meet him and to know him. Let's take a closer look at that . . .
“It changed my life!” Or, “This book, it was a game-changer for me!” We throw those phrases around a lot. But when Jesus comes, things don't remain the same. Think about that. Let's take a closer look at how Jesus is the ultimate game-changer.
We celebrate lots of different things in life, but at Christmas, we're preparing for Jesus—and that's the same thing as preparing for God. God is actually coming to us. Now that is something to celebrate. And the Gospel of John makes that very, very clear.
God made a surprising choice. He chose the simple. He could have thrown a big ticker tape parade on Fifth Avenue with bands and broadcasts and trombones, but when he comes, God actually chooses the simple—not the grandiose, not the complex. And Mary is the supreme symbol of that.
At Christmastime, we're preparing our hearts for Jesus, and it's important to think a little bit about our habits, isn't it? How exactly do we prepare, because preparation is needed in lots of aspects of our lives but especially in our habits—especially, maybe, in some of those habits that we often tend to overlook in our spiritual journey. Let's take a closer look at that.
In week one of BEST ADVENT EVER, you and I have been focusing on how God comes close to us. And let's be honest, people experience God in lots of different ways as they prepare for Christmas.
Today in the Gospel, we hear about John the Baptist. John the Baptist, he went out into the desert to prepare. We're preparing for Christmas. John the Baptist, he left everything behind, he went out into the desert to prepare for the mission that God was calling him to. And then when he came back, he announced to the people, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
“The devil’s in the details.” You know, I've heard that phrase a million times. But I had an old teacher who taught me that the exact opposite may actually be the truth. Jesus often shows up in the little things. Maybe, just maybe, it's Jesus—not the devil—who's in the details.
We all have shortages in our lives, and we can't control a lot of them. But Jesus really and truly is interested in every aspect of your life. The Gospel of John makes that powerfully clear.
Abundance. In John 10, Jesus makes it clear that's why he came: to give you and me an abundant life. It's possible to have an abundance of stuff, but to still feel empty on the inside—and we miss the point. It's God's grace that provides the abundance for our souls.
A total loss. Have you ever suffered a total loss in your life, or felt like your life was a total loss? I don't think God even knows the meaning of that phrase.
When I lead our Dynamic Catholic Find Your Greatness event, George Lower, my musician, opens the second session with a song: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your perfect love is casting out fear. And even when I'm caught in the middle of the storms of this life, I won't turn back, I know you're near.”
In week one of BEST ADVENT EVER, we focused on how God comes close to us at Christmas. In this second week, we've focused on: How would your life change when you realize that God is nearby? Because that's what gives us hope.
In today's Gospel, we encounter John the Baptist again. And the people are coming to John and they're saying, “Teacher, what should we do?” It's a great question. It's good for us all, from time to time, to step back and take another look at who we are and where we are and what we're doing, and turn to God and say, “Lord, what should we do?”
In the very beginning of the Gospel, John makes it plain: God made us for him and in him. That's who we are. We are his children. That's our identity. And it's really, really important in this world to know who you are.
Life is choices—and of course, we all want to make good ones. But you and I know when we're really honest with ourselves that there's often something that draws us toward the darkness, even when we know better.
We walk by faith, not by sight. We walk by faith, not by sight. Those are powerful words, but they're no easy task, are they? It means that we don't always know what the next step is—and sometimes we can't even see what the next step is—and yet we step forward anyway.
It doesn't take a big act to move closer toward God. We do it in the little things every single day. Think about St. Thérèse. She discovered the “little way” and became a Doctor of the Church, all because she realized we move a little closer toward God or a little further away from him a thousand times a day.
Your deeply personal questions deserve deeply personal answers. The Gospel of John reminds us that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh—God becomes human. Jesus answers our questions. He feeds our souls, but he also feeds our minds.
What's next for you? What's the next step? It's important to have a plan. It doesn't have to be a big one or a complicated one, just the one step you plan to take next to build on the momentum you've been experiencing during Advent as we've moved our way toward Christmas. Jesus is coming to meet you personally.
Today we hear the story of Mary setting out to visit Elizabeth. It's an amazing story. It's one of my favorite stories in the Scriptures. There’s this incredible humility. You remember that just before this, Mary has been told that she's going to be the mother of God.