Malankara World

Christmas - The Birthday of Jesus

Advent Season - a Season of Preparation

Advent is upon us. "Advent" is simply the Latin word for "coming." We can think about two comings or visits. The first is the arrival of the Christmas Season and the arrival of baby Jesus on Christmas Day. It celebrates the incarnation of God, the chosen messiah.

But the incarnation took place 2000 years ago in Bethlehem in a manger. So, if we are waiting for an arrival, it is the second coming of Jesus Christ as promised we really should be waiting for. As Christians, we know Jesus is coming; but we do not know exactly when. Jesus told us that we should be ready at all time because we do not know the exact day and time He is coming. The advent season is a dress rehearsal for preparing for the arrival of Jesus.

The meaning of the advent season is “preparation,” preparation for the coming of the Lord. In the liturgical season of Advent we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. We had covered the annunciation to Zachariah about the arrival of John, the Baptist. Then we had the annunciation to St. Mary about the incarnation of Jesus. John, the Baptist, had pointed out the messiah in St. Mary's womb when Mary visited Elizabeth. This week, we have the birth of John, the Baptist. Next week, we have the annunciation to Joseph. We should use this as a warm up for “preparing” to receive God in our soul constantly. The soul in a state of grace is the dwelling place of the most holy Trinity.

We make all these preparations for Christmas. However, on every Sunday, we encounter Jesus in the Holy Qurbano. We partake on the Living Sacrifice; we receive him into our lives when we eat his body and drink his blood. Are we doing that without any second thoughts? Are we prapred? Advent is a season to reflect on it. As Fr. Corapi once said:

"Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is a miracle of grace that we can never prepare too well for. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, the One who makes us holy. To start with, we live the basic moral precept: Do good, avoid evil. Acts of virtue; caring for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, etc… help to dispose the soul as a dwelling place for God. Receiving the sacraments regularly help us to grow in grace."

Our church teaches us that the best way to prepare for the arrival of Jesus is via lent and prayers. This is why we observe 25 days lent prior to the Christmas - to get ready for His arrival. We also prepare for receiving the Holy mysteries by praying and undergoing lent before receiving Holy Qurbano. This is the continuous preparation we undertake so that irrespective of when Jesus comes, we will be ready.

This Sunday's gospel reading is about the birth of John the Baptist. John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner of Jesus to prepare the ground for Him. The message of John the Baptist was, "Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand." Our church gives great importance to the repentance. Psalm 51, the repentance psalm, is part of all of our prayers. Half of the preparation for the Holy Qurbano is repentance prayers followed by absolution.

We are so busy attending parties and shopping during the advent season that there is no time to do anything. Our forefathers had planned it very differently. It is easy to become so immersed in the superficial aspects of preparing for Christmas that we ignore the most important preparation: making our hearts ready for the coming of the Lord. Advent is the time for self-reflection. It is time of introspection. It is the time to cleanse our bodies and heart; it is the time to repent our sins, obtain absolution for them and cleanse them so that the Holy Spirit can come and dwell in us when we partake on the Qurbano. This is a good time to reflect on the song we sing while the priest is interceding on our behalf during the Qurbano ("Yachikkendum samayamitha..")

Come, the time of prayer is here,
Come for pardon, have no fear;
'Tis the time to ask anew
'Tis the time for mercy too

Mercy here is full and free,
Come beloved come and see,
Give the kiss of peace divine,
Hearts sincere in love combine.

Lord have mercy on us now,
Grant forgiveness as we bow,
Answer, Lord, our earnest plea;
Good art thou-though frail we be.

So, instead of speeding up, we need to slow down during the advent season. We need to spend our time in silence and meditation so that we will recognize it when the God is arriving. That is the real meaning of advent (preparation) and this season.

See Also:

Advent - Awaiting the King
Christmas is a time to celebrate the truth of Jesus’ birth. But that birth, for it to truly be the special thing that we long for it to be, needs to be seen in a bigger picture. You see, the people of Jesus’ day had been waiting for a Messiah for centuries. They had been expecting, longing, trusting that God would send a savior. What Christmas really is is a celebration of the fact that God keeps his promises.

A Wonderful Night: An Interpretation of Christmas by James H. Snowden
This classic book treats the various events and steps that led to the central wonder on the night that heard angels sing, and was starred with the Birth of Bethlehem. It interprets the story in terms of its significance today and invests it with poetic light.

Jesus - The Gift That Keeps On Giving
The story of Jesus' birth is interesting because it shows us how to receive all the promises of God. I know people like to put everything on God, but you have a part to play in receiving the promises of God. There's a spiritual exchange that has to take place.

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