The secret to a successful party is the prior preparation; the better the preparation, normally, the better the celebration. This we should apply to preparing for the coming of Jesus. Many go over-board in the details done to prepare for birthdays. Should not our preparation for the most important Birthday be enthusiastic and extensive?
Therefore, we will offer ten clear, concrete and practical ways that we can prepare for Christmas—the Birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Indeed, His birth into time radically changed the face of the earth and the history of the world!
1. Graces and Inspirations
“If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts as they did in Meriba and Massah.” (Psalm 95)
As we draw closer to God, the Holy Spirit sends His heavenly inspirations to our minds—these we call actual graces. Our freedom must choose to follow these inspirations. As a result, God will fill us with peace in His presence. “Speak, O Lord for your servant is listening.”
Step aside from the boisterous and clamorous noise that bombards your mind and soul and relish silence. Indeed God speaks to the contemplative and silent heart as he did to the Prophet Elijah on the mountain(I Kings 19) as well as to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Annunciation. (Lk.1:26-38)
3. Light to the World
In our homes and the Parish we light the Advent candles as we start a new week. Jesus is the Light of the world, but you are called to be a light in the world. Jesus tells us: “Let your light shine forth to the world so that by seeing your light others might give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As we draw close to Jesus the LIGHT, who will be born for us why not cast from your life anything that still radiates as darkness. Sin is darkness. Judas left Jesus and entered into the darkness of the night.
4. Frugality and Simplicity
One of the hallmarks of the personality of Pope Francis is that of frugality and simplicity. For that reason, the present Pope chose as his papal name Francis. Saint Francis of Assisi lived a life of great simplicity, detachment and evangelical poverty. May our celebration of Jesus’ birthday not be suffocated by excessive buying, possessing and materialism. Jesus warns us that we cannot serve God and money at the same time.
5. Jesus in the Poor
Saint Martin of Tours saw a poor, half-naked man, shivering in the cold. Moved to compassion, Martin, the soldier and future saint, took his cloak and with his sword cut it in half giving half of his cloak to the poor man. In his dream that night, Martin saw that it was Jesus who was wearing the cloak that Martin had given away. Jesus was born in poverty, but also Jesus can be discovered in our brothers and sisters but especially the poor, abandoned, marginalized and forgotten members of society. Let us pray for eyes of faith and charity to see these special ones of the Lord!
6. Mercy and Forgiveness
If it is such that you are harboring some form of resentment towards some person, holding back forgiveness, and allowing the bitter herb of vindictiveness dominate your soul, now is the time to practice mercy and to forgive. By doing so you will set the captives free; that captive is your very self! How many people in the world are slaves to their own lack of forgiveness?
Remember the words of Jesus: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.” As well as these words from the most well-known prayer in the world (The Our Father): “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Mercy is a two-way street! If we desire God’s forgiveness, then we must forgive those who have offended us.
Jesus challenges us with these words: “Pray always without giving up hope.” (Lk. 18:1) The Holy Seasons of Advent and Lent should be times in which we pray more and intensify our prayer life. Find time, place and good will to enter into dialogue and communication with God. We should long for a deeper prayer life. As air is to the lungs so should prayer be to our souls. The Psalmist expresses it this way: “As the deer yearns for the running waters, so my soul longs for you O Lord my God.” Prayer attains for us the greatest of all gifts—the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is “The Gift of Gifts.”
8. Mass and Holy Communion
The Liturgy teaches us that there are three comings of Jesus Christ: 1) Historically, when He was born in Bethlehem; 2) At the end of time when He will judge the living and the dead; 3) Now through grace. Every time that Holy Mass is celebrated, Jesus is born in the hands of the priest and in the hearts of the faithful who receive Him in Holy Communion. Why not make a concerted effort as we prepare for Christmas to go to Mass and receive Jesus in the Bethlehem of your heart?
9. Clean the Cave
Your heart can be compared to a house or even to a cave. If you were to invite guests to your home you would most likely clean your house so as to give a good reception to your guests. Now is the time to make a good Sacramental Confession. By doing so you will be cleaning out the dirt, cobwebs, dust, debris, and trash in your heart. Then Jesus ill come with greater joy and fill you with joy. “Lord create in me a new heart… A humble and broken heart O lord you will not spurn…” (Psalm 51—Act of Contrition of King David.)
10. Marian Bumper Sticker
I was once captivated by a short Marian one-liner; then I made this into a bumper-sticker for my car. It reads as such: “Wise men still find Jesus in the arms of Mary.” (Mt. 2:1-12—the Magi) As the day of Christmas quickly approaches, let us anxiously await the birth of Jesus with Mary. She carried Jesus in her womb for nine months. Why not beg through the most powerful intercession of Mary for the grace to truly dispose your heart so that Jesus will truly be born anew in the depths of your soul.
“Come Lord Jesus, come, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”