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Advent, a time to reflect on the awesome message of Christmas

posted Dec 4, 2014, 2:49 AM by Church of the Risen Christ   [ updated Dec 4, 2014, 3:14 AM ]
Mention Christmas and many images come to mind -- the Christmas tree with its colourful trimmings, the holly wreath, the Nativity set, pineapple tarts and so on.  To the children, it's Santa Claus and Mister Snowman.  We love our Christmas!  In fact, we love it so much that we tend to skim through -- or even skip! -- the events leading up to it.  But that's a bit like going straight to the last chapter of a thrilling novel.  It's nice to know how the story ended.  But we miss so much of the story -- the intricate plots, the unexpected turns, the flashbacks, how the characters changed over the course of the story, and the mounting tension leading to the end of the story.  That's what happens when we skip Advent and dive straight into Christmas. 

The season of Advent is the period of spiritual preparation leading to Christmas. When we properly prepare our hearts (as no doubt we prepare our houses) to receive Christ at Christmas, we get the full value and essence of Christmas. 

Spend some time reflecting on the events that took place before Christ was born. 

Remember how it all began?  How awestruck and anxious Mary was at the appearance of the Angel Gabriel who told her that she, of all women, was chosen to be the Mother of God?  And how with simple straightforwardness she had replied to Gabriel, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you say."?  

That simple line was a major turning point in the history of man's salvation. 

We can imagine how awkward and uncomfortable it must have been for Mary to explain to Joseph that she is conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And how after much hesitation (and prompting from an angel) Joseph decided to take Mary's word as truth.  And we remember how Joseph took care of Mary during her pregnancy. 

We recall how the heavily pregnant Mary travelled for miles on the back of a donkey with Joseph to get to Bethlehem to be registered in the census called for by the Roman Emperor.  And how in Bethlehem Joseph had to look desperately for a place for Mary to give birth to Jesus.

God's plan of salvation for mankind was too lofty and too incredible for any human mind to take in -- even for Mary, a woman of great faith.  God had to send Mary some signs to confirm and to reassure her that what the angel Gabriel said to her truly came from God.  

The first confirmation came from her cousin Elizabeth.  It was God who put the words in Elizabeth's mouth as she proclaimed "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  The words were similar to what the Angel Gabriel had said to Mary earlier on. 

Later after the birth of Jesus, God was to send two more people (or groups of people) to reassure Mary of the identity of Jesus.  The first was the shepherds tending to their sheep on the plains of Bethlehem; the second was the Magi, traditionally known as the three Wise Men, who came all the way from the east to cast their eyes on the baby, who was God clothed in human flesh. 

We, too, need some time to reflect and to take in the awesome truth that "For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish by have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Have a fruitful Advent!