“Are we there yet?” is perhaps one of the most common phrases we hear on a journey, mostly from the mouths of excited youngsters fed up with the journey but filled with excitement for what lies ahead at their destination. They can’t recognise the beauty and experiences that the journey can bring and, instead, see it as something that has to be endured, in order to get them to where they want to be. Games such as ‘i-spy’ are played to distract the youngsters and to help the journey time pass quickly.
We can be the exact same in Advent. Advent is a time of journey to prepare us for the promised arrival of the infant King, Jesus, at Christmas. However, we too can become easily distracted by the things that will get us to Christmas – cards, shopping, wrapping, decorating and party nights. The time passes in such a blur of colour and noise and we can forget the most important thing, the beauty of the journey.
During Advent, we journey with Mary, who humbly and patiently awaits the birth of her child. We also join with all the people of the Old Testament who awaited the Messiah.
Advent allows us to participate in the waiting that is part of life. It is an exciting time and full of anticipation and hope. A family awaiting the arrival of a new child knows the joy as they journey closer to the day. Our joy increases also as the arrival of the Baby Jesus draws nearer.
It is also a time of preparation but of our hearts and our spiritual lives. We all know that the more we put in to something the more we get out of it and Advent is no different. There are many ways to prepare ourselves for Christmas. Setting some time aside, in silence, away from the busyness of the world around us will help us to create space in our hearts and in our lives to welcome the Baby Jesus is probably one of the most powerful ways. If we prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus at Christmas we will enjoy it even more as we will receive the greatest gift that there is on offer.
Since it is the start of a new liturgical year, Advent is also a time of beginnings. We can use it to make a fresh start in our faith journeys. We can look at what we may need or like to change in our lives, perhaps what we could or should be doing more of or less of. Advent can be the new start we often need and look for.
So, as we begin this first week of Advent, let us be guided by Mary who can teach us the art of waiting, preparing and beginning with patience and hopeful expectation. Let us enjoy the journey as we go along, preparing ourselves for the great feast of Christmas when it arrives because, remember, we are not there yet!
Sr Anne Frances McNamee, FMA, is a Salesian Sister, based in Liverpool.