If you have children, you remember very well the birth of your first child. Not only the birth, but the anticipation, the preparation and jubilation of your child’s entrance into the world.
With great joy, you announced to family and friends, “We’re having a baby!” Surely everyone shared your happiness! Maybe you said, “We’re expecting!” What were you expecting? Your child, born of your mutual love. Your own child — a child that is truly a gift of God! You probably painted the baby’s room, procured a crib, changing table, diapers and all the other necessary things to make a home for your child. You were anxious and excited at the same time.
Once you brought your baby home, you probably noticed some slight changes in your life. Did you get as much sleep as you did before? Did you have as much time to yourself? Was your daily routine changed in any way by the glorious presence of your new-born child?
I don’t know many couples who are fully prepared for their firstborn. Your life was probably turned upside down! One day you’re expecting, and the next the reality of it all is sinking in. The happiness was still there, but looking at your infant child, you knew that your life truly wasn’t your own anymore, and it would never be the same. Your baby was totally dependent on you from the beginning and couldn’t live without you and your spouse. Your child didn’t just change almost everything about your life — your child gave you a new life.
Can we see now why Our Lord comes to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary, as humble and helpless as every newborn?
He wants to give us a new life in him. Further, can we see why the Church celebrates Advent as a time of preparation and penance, year after year, so that we are truly ready to welcome our Infant Lord at Christmas?
Christ is born for us. Christ’s life is given to us, not just to receive as we would material Christmas gifts but to receive him as he gives himself to us at Christmas.
This means to welcome him as we welcomed our first child: to be changed by him. Changed not in a way that fades with the passing of the Christmas season, but changed as we were changed by the birth of our first child.
Consider how your life changed when you were expecting. You had time to prepare, and you used it well. For us to welcome the Christ Child, this time to prepare is the season of Advent.
We should use this time well, too. To begin, we should fix our heart on the reason for the season: the coming of Christ our Savior.
Your whole outlook on life changed when you found out you were pregnant. Your priorities completely changed because you knew you were going to welcome a new life into your heart and home.
Perhaps our priorities need to change for you to truly receive the Infant Jesus at Christmas. Advent is a good time to examine our priorities and choices in the light of the Holy Spirit who is the life of God in us. Christ is born for us, so the great cry of Christmas joy echoes through the whole Church. Christ’s life is born anew in us through the divine love of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare to receive Christ at Christmas. Ask the Holy Spirit for this grace, with the confidence and trust of knowing that God wants to give all of us this great gift.
Then, be led by the Holy Spirit.
To make room for the Christ Child, we should “clean house.”
I have an identical twin named John. When my mother and father were expecting, it was the time before ultrasounds were widely available. They didn’t know they were expecting twins. It wasn’t until two minutes after I was born when the doctor said, “Here comes another one!” that my dear mother knew she was having twins.
After our delivery, the doctor didn’t greet my father in the waiting area with the expected, “It’s a boy,” but rather by saying, “You’ve got double trouble.” My dad met us and knew he had to make room! To my mother’s chagrin, he drove back home, put the two cats, Puffy and Pinwheel, into a cardboard box and gave them to a willing family. We laugh about it to this day.
How can we clean house? Make room for God first in your will.
I’ve heard it said (and since repeated many times) that if we can say to God, “I want what you want and only what you want,” then we are on the path to true holiness. How difficult that is. But we can at least begin with the desire to have that desire. That, in itself, is very pleasing to God. “I want to want what you want and only what you want.” That should be part of our prayer every day. Again, God wants to give us this grace.
Family and prayer
Make room for God with your time. Maybe your routine or the pattern of your day needs to change as it did when your first child was born. As a family and on your own, set aside time for prayer. Make a commitment as a family to do this every day. Support each other as a family to turn the television off, get away from the computer, get out of your room and pray. The Rosary is a great family prayer, and the most powerful prayer outside of the Mass. Even starting at the beginning of Advent with just one decade and adding another decade for each week of Advent, you’d be praying the whole Rosary beginning at Christmas.
Another wonderful way for a family to pray is to answer the following questions as a prayer:
— What do I have to be thankful for?
— Who shall we pray for?
— What do we need help with from God?
To answer them as a prayer, you might pray, “God, I’m thankful for your love and constant presence to us, all the grace that you give us to help us each day. And especially for ...” Be specific so that you are mindful of the actual blessings for which you are thankful.
Go beyond the very popular bedtime prayers, such as, “God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy, God bless Fluffy…” If you pray using these questions with your children, you will teach them how to pray and how to relate to God. Your children will grow in trust of God and the knowledge that God is real, that he’s listening, and he loves them.
On your own, make time to pray in the morning and evening. Whatever devotional prayers you love to pray, as part of your prayer, be yourself with God. He’s the one who loves you the most and knows you the best. He wants us to pray this way — from our hearts and with the utmost trust. We don’t have to be afraid of opening our hearts to him.
Make room for God with a good confession. Advent is a penitential season. It is the time to repent, believe in God’s mercy and trust that God can make us saints.
God’s mercy is the gateway into deeper union with him, it is not an end to itself. Therefore, we shouldn’t look at confession as one more Catholic “chore” we ought to do before Christmas, but it is rather to think how Jesus can change us if we accept him as our very own child.
Make room for God with visits to the Blessed Sacrament and daily Mass. Meeting Christ in his Eucharistic presence allows God to accomplish his work in us. The worship of the Mass is the most important and fruitful offering we can make.
What’s more, this is the way Jesus has chosen to give himself to us. If there were anything better he could give, he would have given it. He gives himself to us.
Christ is born for us. He wants to make us saints. We can be those saints if we prepare during Advent to receive him like our own newborn child.
Father Stephen Schultz writes from Virginia.