Let us look at some of the readings for Advent and see if there is a specific preparation given to us for Christ’s coming at Christmas or at any time in our lives. We find there are three factors necessary for true preparation for Christ’s coming into our lives:
a) The longing of Isaiah;
b) The repentance of John the Baptist;
c) The prayer of Mary.
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1) Isaiah’s longing is given on the first Sunday – while admitting the people’s sinfulness, he proclaims “Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down.” He saw the need for spiritual reform but longs for God to initiate it. This longing is the key to preparing for Christ’s coming at Christmas, His second coming, or as He comes in any event or person in our lives. All situations in our lives open up to us to see Jesus and accept Him. If our longing is true, we will see Him in others and in the events of our lives – for Jesus said “Whatever you do the least of My brethren you do to Me.” We must long to meet Jesus in all people and events of our lives and accept Him to become children of God.
2) The second help to prepare for Christ is to prepare the way of the Lord, witnessed in the repentance of John the Baptist. John is in the desert, or in a place withdrawn from the world where prayer and reflection will lead to conversion – which prepares the “way” of the Lord. Repentance is daily conversion to an awareness of the presence of the Lord within us through our longing and the sacraments. John calls us and the people to change our hearts and focus on the Lord’s coming into our lives in every event and through every person who comes into our lives. This would mean that we confess our sins, turn away from them and do penance as John preaches.
3) The final preparation goes hand by hand with the other two – the prayer of Mary. In prayer we listen to God – we accept, doubt or reject what God offers us. Prayer helps us see and assent to the mysteries of faith. We learn that nothing is impossible with God. Prayer helps us say “yes” to all events and people in our lives as Mary’s “Be it done to me according to your will.”
True preparation for Christ’s coming at Christmas, or at any time in our lives, requires a sincere longing for Him, supported by repentance for our sins through our need for daily conversion. And with sincere prayer we will be ready to accept Jesus in all events of our lives, accept Him in all those who come our way and, finally, have no fears to accept Him at our death, but rather long to be with Him when He comes to bring us to the kingdom of heaven. Yes, true preparation for Christ to come at Christmas or at any time in our lives must be founded on a longing for him, with repentance leading to conversion of heart, and supported by prayer with and before the Lord. Longing, Repentance, and Prayer.