I just love this time of year! But I must confess, even though it falls at the same time each year, I always feel so rushed in preparing for it. You would think something that comes the same time every year would eventually become something that doesn’t surprise us in its coming. Right?
Yet, I always seem to scramble at the last minute in choosing which Advent tradition to follow for myself and for my family. Thankfully, we have a Church that is growing and vibrant in its evangelism. There is no shortage of programs to choose from with Ascension Press and Fr. Mark Toups Rejoice! Advent Meditations, Word on Fire’s Advent Gospel Reflections by Bishop Barron, Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic Best Advent Ever, and the tried-and-true Word Among Us books each parish always seems to deliver in abundance, along with the infamous Blue Book and countless others, to help make our Advent preparations simple and accessible.
Much like today’s Gospel in Matthew, there seems to be many more people crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” than ever before. But the message is still the same, Christ is Coming. Are you ready?
Advent is upon us to help us prepare our hearts to receive more of Jesus. Though we celebrate an event that happened thousands of years ago, we call to remembrance each year the truth that Our Lord is coming back again and this reminder is important. We don’t need to chastise ourselves for feeling rushed into traditions, but rather we can rest in the “Spirit of the Lord” whom the Prophet Isaiah reminds us is wisdom and understanding, our counsel and our strength.
Remembrance was a significant practice among the Jewish people. The Old Testament is filled with calls to remembrance that shaped the traditions of the Israelites who would hand down the faith by them to generation after generation. In today’s second reading, the Apostle Paul reminds the Romans that these traditions are important to keep hold of not just so they could perform them well but so that by their instruction they would help us keep our hope in Christ’s Second Coming, “Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
Therefore, let us not be bogged down by the demands of such a busy season but instead turn our hearts to that Root of Jesse, which has been planted in us for thousands of generations, and find ways to nourish it that it might grow and “produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.”
We live in an age of great mercy, where Paul reminds the Romans “that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.”
So, even though we are beginning the Second Week of Advent, and maybe you haven’t given it as much time for reflection as you would like, we need not fear the ax at the root nor the hand of God’s Justice in our day, but rather hold fast to the Spirit of the Lord who is Divine Mercy for the Gentiles. Start today. Pick a tradition (old or new) and begin preparing your heart for Christ’s Coming. The good news is There’s Still Time!
Make a Jesse Tree with your children and grandchildren to remind them of their ancient roots in Christ. Or follow one of these other 10 Suggestions for Family Advent Traditions by Ascension Press
The tradition of the Jesse tree comes from the passage in Isaiah:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.”
The symbols hung on the Jesse tree tell the story of salvation history, leading up to the birth of Christ at Christmas
Most important of all, be blessed and have a joyful Advent with your friends and family!
May the God of endurance and encouragement
grant you to think in harmony with one another,
in keeping with Christ Jesus,
that with one accord you may with one voice
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you,
for the glory of God.
– Romans 15:4-9