During the season of Advent seminarians of the Scots College will be providing weekly reflections. Edward Toner from the Archdiocese of Glasgow considers the message of the first week in Advent..
“Stay awake!” I imagine these word of our Good Lord to his disciples pop into the heads of many seminarians here at the Scots College as we rise early and make our way downstairs to the chapel for 6.30am Mass, or perhaps it’s just me. Now in my third year I still recall these words almost every morning at Mass here in the college; stay awake, be attentive, look for the presence of God. But these wise words of Jesus are not just good advice for early morning Mass, they are good advice for the lives of each and every one of us as Christians. In other words; our lives must be lived as if the Lord were coming tomorrow. It is for this reason that the Church presents us with this Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent, as a reminder to stay focused on the Lord.
Advent is that great period of preparation and expectant hope, where we are invited in a particular way to be more attentive to God working in our lives, to place him at the centre of our existence and look towards his coming at Christmas. The run up to Christmas can sometimes seem less “the most wonderful time of the year” and more the most busy or stressful time of the year. We only have to look around the shops to see people running around buying presents and turkeys and selection boxes, preparing for the big day-at least materially. Not that we shouldn’t mark Christmas in this way, it is a celebration after all, but how well do we prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of Jesus at Christmas? I think as Catholics we’re often better at “doing something” for Lent as a way to prepare for Easter, but it’s also worth thinking of something extra we could do during the four weeks of Advent to prepare for the feast of the Nativity. Perhaps saying an extra prayer when we get up in the morning or trying to get to Mass a little bit earlier on Sunday, something simple but out of the ordinary that we choose to do to keep Christ in our daily lives in the run up to Christmas.
Yes, the season of Advent is about preparing for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but it’s more than that. We prepare to celebrate that great moment when God himself stepped into history and became man, born of a poor virgin in a manger at Bethlehem. A great act of love on the part of God that we should remember every day, not just once a year. God became man out of love for us, out of a desire that we might know and love him better. Advent is the beautiful season of the Church’s year which reminds us to keep this reality at the centre of everything we do, to live our lives according to the will of God, trusting that his will for us will make us truly happy in this life and in the life to come.