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Have You Prepared Spiritually For Christmas Yet?

Second Sunday of Advent (B)

My dear encountered couples:

Christmas is fast approaching and as is usually the case, many of us will soon be worrying about whether we have gifts for everyone on our list. Every year we read about the number of people who get caught in the “I haven't gotten a gift for so-and-so and now I'm in a bind.” That's why the experts advise us to “shop early.” Of course, those experts are also the people who are selling the gifts and they hope to make a nice profit at Christmas.

On the other hand, we very seldom hear any of our family members, our friends or the people at Wal-Mart ever ask, “Have you prepared spiritually for Christmas yet?” There's not much profit to be derived from the spiritual preparation so the big advertisers don't waste their precious dollars on any reference to the spirituality of the season.

And yet, what is Christmas? Very simply it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. However, you might not realize that if you only read the ads on television, radio and in the newspapers, notice they usually don't mention Jesus but they do let us know about the great sales that will allow us to buy things for our friends and families at a very good price but a price that still allows them to make a nice profit.

So, the question arises, “But how do we prepare spiritually for Christmas?” Well, in today's first reading we get some idea of what the Israelites thought about the promised coming of the Messiah. “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. Go up on a high mountain, Zion, herald of great tidings; cry out at the top of your voice.

Isn't that the real spirit of Christmas? We are to prepare the way of the Lord. Therefore, as we check off our gift lists at this time of the year we should also be taking inventory to determine what we are doing to prepare for the way of the Lord.

So, let's make a little comparison. I don't mean for this exercise to put a downer on our Christmas preparation, but it is true that our thoughts may be more occupied with thinking of what gifts we will purchase for our family and friends than thinking of what the Lord has given to us.

That means we shop ... we search for things that will please the people who are on our “Christmas list”, right? And that requires time to make sure we make the perfect selection for each person. However, most of us have, for most of our lives, already received a “perfect gift” – which is our FAITH.

Possibly the first part of our spiritual preparation would be to “Thank God” for the wonderful gifts he has given to each of us. No society in the history of the world has been given the gifts that most of you (especially the young people here) have enjoyed merely because you were given the great gift of being born here in the United States. As you hear and, through television, see the living conditions in much of the world, you should marvel at what God has done for you.

Why were you not born in China where there is little freedom? Why were you not born in areas of Africa or some third world countries that have suffered through starvation and disease for years and years? Why were you not born in a country in which Catholic religion is not allowed, where you could not openly practice my faith? Why not? Well, because God gave you, the special gift of location ... the United States of America.

Most of the young people here, grade school, junior and seniors or college students have certainly been blessed. You have a higher standard of living than your parents had at your age, maybe more luxuries than any other age group has ever had.

Most of you live in a nice home but are not responsible for any mortgage payments. Most of you have wonderful meals but don't pay the super market bills.

Many of you have the benefit of a wonderful education but pay no tuition bills. So, it would behoove the young people here to recognize the gifts that God and your parents have given you.

Besides the young people, every category in our society has been blessed. Most of us have health, opportunity, relative safety and security. Why? Because we live here in a nation of plenty – and this nation came from our God.

And we need not feel guilty because God has given us so much but, rather, it would seem appropriate to recognize His gifts and spend time during this gift giving time to thank Him for His generosity.

How do we do this? Basically, the answer is simple ... we pray. And yet, during this time of year, many of us complain that we have little time because we are so busy checking our lists and preparing for the holiday. And many in our society seems to have forgotten the meaning of the holiday.

When I read the newspapers, or listen to radio or television, most of the space and time is consumed by advertising exhorting me to buy this or the other product. There is never a mention about “giving thanks.” There is never a mention of why we are involved is so much giving to others.

No one seems to mention it's because we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ. A person from outer space could come to our planet and during the next few weeks hear about this wonderful holiday but never hear the name of Jesus.

As we look forward to the short amount of time we have before Christmas is here I would make a few suggestions. In a spirit of thanksgiving, I would recommend we consider the possibility of praying the rosary each day. We may be busy, but we usually spend time alone when we are driving our cars. Why not use the steering wheel as our rosary? Would it be an imposition to consider attending daily Mass once or twice a week during this season?

We could use the opportunity to thank God for what we have. And, of course, this is the perfect time to share what we do have with those less fortunate. Compared to many people in the rest of the world our wealth is almost unbelievable. We have been given great gifts, but we only merit those gifts if we are honest enough to recognize where they came from. They came from our God and, therefore, our first thoughts this Christmastime should be to thank Him and worship Him because He has given us all so much.

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