Many of the Scripture passages from the third week of Advent speak of rejoicing and the glory that will surround us when the Lord comes at last. Many also speak about the effort it takes to fully experience that glory and joy in the Lord. If our hearts are closed, if we are not attentive to Christ during these final six days before Christmas, how can we really welcome him?
No matter what Advent has looked like to this point — whether you woke up today and suddenly realized it was Advent or if you have been an Advent rock star — we all have room to grow, to break away stone from our hearts and open ourselves more intimately to the Lord.
The following verses talk about that need for growth and focusing our gaze on Christ.
- “Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God.” Is 35:3-4b
Maybe Advent seems intimidating at times. Maybe focusing on party preparations or gift-wrapping is easier. But take a look at this verse. It says two important things. First, we are feeble and weak. We are far from perfect, and we need to examine ourselves before the Lord and ask for his mercy and grace. Second, that is not a reason to fear, because God is here. With him, we become strong and firm. So go to him and ask.
- “Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord. … Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Jas 5:7a, 8b
Change is hard. It takes time and effort. This passage exhorts us to “be patient,” not only in terms of endurance in putting in the time to prepare for the Lord, but I think also with ourselves. It is far too easy to look at how poorly we are doing. Do not underestimate the power of God’s grace. Do not question the wisdom of his timing. Do not see yourself as beyond his reach. He is God, he is coming and he will not overlook you. Just keep going.
- “As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
‘What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.
Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’” Mt 11:7-11
This passage struck me the most. Jesus asks the people “why did you go out?” and what did you go to see? These are very pertinent questions for us. Whether at Mass, in prayer, at the mall or at grandma’s house, let’s ask: Why did I go? What did I go to see? Is it Christ? Am I sharing Christ? Despite all the goods that we experience, there is something, someone, greater. I pray that is who we want to see and share.
- “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel.” Mt 1:23
Amid the admonishments to prepare diligently, this avid reminder appears more than once: Emmanuel, “God is with us.” Now that is an encouraging thought. Do not forget it.
- “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one,
and come!” Song 2:10b
“On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love.” Zep 3:16-17a
I could not pick between these two, and obviously someone else could not either. These are two options for the first reading on Saturday. Note the excitement in these passages. Do you know how excited a child becomes on Christmas Eve, eagerly anticipating the thrill of Christmas morning? Well I am pretty sure that is how God feels about us. He, too, is eagerly anticipating Christmas. He is asking us to come, arise and adore him, our Savior, because “he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love.”
Where is God knocking at your heart? Take that verse and invite him in.
May God bless your week.
Jennifer Rey is the web editor of Our Sunday Visitor Publishing.