Finding the Heart of God in Advent

My mom tells me that when I was a preschooler, I was given one of those fun Advent calendars that has 24 little doors with chocolate or a picture behind each one. They’re supposed to be a fun way for kids to countdown the days until Christmas.

“When all the doors are opened,” my Mom explained to me, “Christmas will be here!”

At which point I apparently opened all the doors at once, only to be quite irked that my mom hadn’t clarified that it wasn’t 24 doors but 24 days that needed to be passed for Christmas to arrive.

Poor me. No more doors to open and 24 days of waiting.

And so we Wait

There is no shortage of waiting in life, especially in high school. Waiting for the weekend. Waiting to find out if you got the after school job. Waiting to find out if you made the team. Waiting for mom to pick you up from said job or team’s practice. Waiting to get a driver’s license. Waiting to hear from colleges. Don’t get me wrong — I know days are packed with extracurriculars, homework, and Netflix. But there is also lots of waiting in the midst of all the activity.

O God, who see how your people
faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity,
enable us, we pray,
to attain the joys of so great a salvation,
and to celebrate them always
with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Collect, Third Sunday of Advent

The Collect (the prayer said after the Gloria at Mass, before the first reading) from the Third Sunday of Advent describes us, the faithful, as awaiting the Lord’s Nativity. We can definitely relate to this idea of waiting because chances are it was only a few minutes ago that you were waiting for grades to post, waiting to get asked to Homecoming, waiting for the delivery guy to arrive with dinner, or waiting to get a text back… We know what it’s like to wait.

Because we wait so much, we can be tempted to think of Advent as just another time spent waiting for something to happen. We log in the four weeks of waiting (or in the case of 2017, three weeks and a Sunday afternoon) and then we celebrate Christmas.

Yet this waiting is very different from what we would do at a bus stop. Christmas celebrates the Incarnation — the fact that the Son of God became man to accomplish our salvation. Salvation — that was His plan all along. That was His plan from the moment Adam and Eve sinned and He promised Satan that he would “put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers…” (Genesis 3:15, also known as the Protoevangelium or “first Gospel”, if you want to impress your youth minister at the next Bible study).

He Waits for us, too

The reality of Advent is that it is a time for us to prayerfully recall that at one time the world was awaiting The Savior and now we all await His second coming. But it also invites us to consider how God has been seeking us, inviting us and even waiting for us since the moment original sin entered the world. Unlike the way we wait for a bus or our coffee order, Advent is a season of active waiting — an opportunity to meditate on God’s desire for us, even as we walk through the waiting of the coming of the Messiah recounted in the Old Testament and allow the reality of the Second Coming to permeate our hearts.

The heart of God awaits us, and the season of Advent especially invites us to dwell on the mystery that God seeks us — seeks you, seeks me, seeks the person who annoys you most, and the person who is most overlooked — He seeks us all not because of obligation or duty but simply because he loves. The challenge is to silence all the distractions of the season and truly encounter Him.

Rather than pass the time of Advent by simply checking off the days in a calendar (or eating all the chocolate behind the doors), we can seek to encounter Him in the opportunities this season offers. Some ways to consider:

  • Receive the Sacrament of Confession. God is waiting to encounter us in this Sacrament of Mercy. If you went to Confession this summer or at your fall retreat, this is perfect time to continue to receive God’s mercy. If you haven’t received the Sacrament since your first Communion or Confirmation- don’t be afraid! God’s mercy is waiting for you. Check out this blog for more help with Confession.
  • Many Churches hold “missions” or days of recollection- talks on a morning or over the course of a few evenings- that focus on a particular aspect of spirituality during the season of Advent. Find out if there is an Advent mission or day of recollection happening at a Church near you and plan to attend- even if it’s not something your youth group is doing. Take a journal and listen for what God is telling you about this season.
  • With the Sunday Old Testament readings as a guide, wade into the Old Testament- especially the Prophet Isaiah- and appreciate how God’s promises in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ in the New Testament.
  • Pick some spiritual reading- a book about the life of a saint you admire, or something by a an author you appreciate- and resolve to spend a few minutes each day reading and studying before diving into Netflix or social media. In fact, I happen to know of a great Advent Companion you can purchase right here.
  • Find a ministry that needs help like a soup kitchen, an after school program, or Sunday school — and spend some time bringing Jesus to those who are most in need.

Waiting. It can be hard. Frustrating. Disappointing. Boring. But unlike the many things we wait for in life, Advent will not disappoint, because we know that even in the midst of waiting, our longing for eternal love encounters our Father, who never ceases to seek us and call us to eternal union with Him. The Heart of God is waiting for you. Seek Him this advent season.