Advent is a glorious time to be a Catholic woman. For the past few years, I have been asked to speak at a variety of different teas and dinners that mark this special season and each one has been a gift from God.
I have had the good fortune to meet hundreds of women who all hunger for a deeper, more personal relationship with the Creator that is our call all year long but most evident during Advent. They are drawn together, supporting one another, nurturing one another, and uplifting one another in the most magnificent of ways. And in their camaraderie lie my rewards. Although an outsider to each of these events, like a fly on the wall, I am able to see the great love and care that each of the members of these different groups of women have for one another. Advent is a time when the truly important issues become clearer, as does one's journey towards Christ.
Each year my message remains the same, let us look to God's Word as our source of guidance and strength. What does He teach us about joy, hope, repentance, anticipation, and preparation? How are we called to prepare ourselves during Advent? What women of Scripture shed light on God's expectations of us?
Some of the women I have chosen to focus on this year include Judge Deborah, Queen Esther, Mary Magdalene, Rachel, and Mary. These women, through their lives, illuminate what Advent is all about.
For instance, Judge Deborah teaches us how to joyfully serve the Lord. She was the only female judge in the history of Israel's judges. It has been said that she was as unexpected as Christ! Deborah was judge during the time when the Israelites were under the power of a Canaanite king whose name was Jabin. As a prophetess and judge, the Lord revealed to Deborah His plan for the Israelite's freedom from oppression. The events unfold as expected and we hear Deborah sing a victory song. Throughout her tenure as judge we know that she would have possessed the necessary traits to joyfully serve our God: strength, wisdom, and wealth.
Queen Esther also displayed many anointed characteristics that show us, during Advent, what it means to live in hopeful expectation. Like Deborah, Esther was in a powerful position. Through an interesting set of circumstances, Esther was made queen during a time when the Israelites once again needed help. God's people turn to Esther with a hopeful expectation that she will remedy the situation and save them while Esther turns to God with that same hopeful expectation. But I believe that there is a hidden piece to this puzzle that we often overlook and that is the fact that God must also have had hopeful expectations in Esther. She could have, after all, chosen not to aid His people. She risked her life in doing this and it would have been easily understandable if she would have decided against intervening. Through her actions, God's people were saved, showing us the inherent worth of hopeful expectation in our relationship with God.
While Advent is about joyfully serving God and living with a hopeful expectation of the return of Christ, Advent is also about repentance. Mary Magdalene is our perfect example of repentance and of accepting Christ's forgiveness that is given to us through His death and resurrection. All too often we are told that our sins are inconsequential or that they aren't sins at all. This is a dangerous belief, for as Christ told us, He came for sinners. If we do not claim ourselves as such we cannot stake a claim in our inheritance through Him. Mary Magdalene is an excellent example of what it means to repent and receive forgiveness.
Advent is also a time for renewal of our trust in God and our anticipation in the coming of Christ. Rachel's bold example of standing before God to make her requests known, and then trustfully anticipate His answer, illustrates for us that same attitude necessary during this Advent season. This is also a time to ask the difficult questions like, "What is God trustfully anticipating from me?" "What is my Lord and Savior waiting for me to do?" Advent is our time to search our hearts for God's call which can only happen by setting time aside to give to Him.
Finally, Advent is about the way we will prepare ourselves for Christ's second coming. Mary teaches us that the preparation should be holy in nature. It should be self-sacrificing and selfless. And while we can never match the selflessness of The Blessed Mother, Advent is a time for us to put our best foot forward; to take a look at our words, our actions, our lives, and ask ourselves some very solemn questions about our relationship with Christ.
So, with Advent here, let us enjoy the blessings of family and friends, gatherings and presents, but most of all let us remember the great joy that comes from being Catholic women during this precious time of year.
[Editor's Note: Please invite a friend, daughter, sister, or mother and join Cheryl Dickow as she moderates the Catholic Exchange Woman's Study in celebration of the 20th anniversary of John Paul's Apostolic Letter on the Dignity of Women. The ten week study begins January 7th and includes three components: The book, Renewing Your Christian Self: Wisdom From Old and New Testament Women, access to podcasts, and access to online moderated discussions. The cost of the study is $35.00. Registration forms will be available soon on Catholic Exchange.]