Help Wanted: Learning About Holiness From Baby Jesus

Do you know what really bugs me about Advent? Or rather, the way people approach Advent?

Everyone skips to the end. We’re happy about the fact that Jesus was born, but even then we’re honoring His birth mostly in terms of how His life ended. And it makes sense that we do. Freeing us from sin is the reason He came to earth in the first place, so it’s understandable to want to skip to the part where He fulfills this purpose. But we have all of Lent for that. What is there to take out of Advent?

Something that really hit me recently is that Christ’s first miracle was becoming a baby.

His First Sacrifice

He performed a lot of miracles, but the first was to become a child. He gave many sacrifices, but the first thing He sacrificed was self-sufficiency.

When I was a little kid, my two goals in life were to be an adult and to be perfect. Easy, right? I went out of my way to show my teachers and my parents that I was more than capable of taking care of everything myself. My proudest moment in kindergarten was being left in charge of a classroom of my peers at 5 years old. I had decided that grown-ups were self-sufficient, as they should be, and as such, if I wanted to be mature, I could never ask for help. From anyone. Ever.

But something I was missing was that there was a lot more to Jesus’s life prior to His public ministry and death. Like a lot of people do with Advent, I glanced over the beginning and wanted only the end. Heaven was the goal, but I forgot that the journey still happens on earth.

Jumping To the End

I wanted to be like the saints who so often seem strong and tough, ready to die a martyr for God. I wanted to make the biggest sacrifices and fight the roughest battles. Though I had good intentions, this quickly turned into an intense fear of needing people. I told myself that things like friendship and love were luxuries, but I hardly needed them; I could accomplish more and be stronger with independence. So, slowly but surely, I began pushing things down, believing that this was a necessary sacrifice to make in order to be who God wanted me to be.

But I couldn’t sustain it. Eventually, this strategy of mine began to crumble as the secrets and unexpressed emotions piled up and up and up until they burst. When they finally did, I found myself on my knees, sobbing to God, begging Him to help me. I needed my Father.

Since that prayer, God has been slowly teaching me that it’s okay to be vulnerable sometimes and it’s okay to need help. Even so, I still fall into the old trap. I look at the cross, and I want so badly to emulate Him right now that I put the weight of the world on my shoulders. Four years after that desperate prayer, I found myself on my knees again, this time filled with anxiety, and crying to God that I can’t do it—I can’t be holy, I can’t be like Him. In my mind, I ran over and over all the times I had failed. All the times I had been selfish. All the times I had snapped at my friends. All the times I had sinned.

I wanted to spread joy, but sometimes I needed help with my own problems. I wanted to be kind, but I still snapped at people. One day I couldn’t imagine putting anything before Heaven, and the next I spent hours preoccupied with temptations. One day I thought I would never waver, and the next it took an hour to convince myself to pray. I believed that God had a plan for me, but the plan was too unattainable; I was never going to get it right. Inevitably, I would let Him down.

Awaiting Baby Jesus

And then I thought of Baby Jesus. Long before His miracle-working, long before His preaching, long before His passion, He chose what His first act would be, and He chose to become a child, a child that would need to slowly grow up, nurtured by the love of His family. Christ didn’t jump straight to the Passion, so why do I? I might not be holy enough to die for Him, but, fortunately, He gave me a much more attainable first step.

The word “advent” means “to arrive.” All of Advent, I prepare not just for Christ to arrive, but for myself to arrive. I remember to go back to the beginning and always start with the first step. Who I am can be pretty messy and, yes, vulnerable, but that’s who God made me to be. And if vulnerable is where Jesus started, then it’s a pretty great starting place for me.