The great season of Advent has arrived and our preparation for the Christmas season is just getting underway.
Similar to Lent in its focus on “preparing Him room” in our hearts, Advent is a time to shake the rugs a bit. Beat out the old bad habits and try our hand at a few new ones.
Clearly, this is something we should be doing every day of the calendar year. After all, as we are repeatedly reminded of this month, we do not choose the day, the time or the location of our deaths.
We should always be ready.
Today’s first reading from Isaiah makes it clear that those who have turned away from God – and mostly turned toward their own prideful desires – will face what he calls a “blast of searing judgment.”
When the LORD washes away
the filth of the daughters of Zion,
And purges Jerusalem’s blood from her midst
with a blast of searing judgment,
This is not a kind and gentle blast.
This won’t be one of those “let’s sit down and discuss your behavior” moments. Those moments need to happen now … not then!
When does one get this opportunity to sit and discuss? Check your parish bulletin for Confession times. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the key to making sure we are prepared to meet our maker and to survive that huge blast of judgment.
Advent is the perfect time to examine our lives and our habits.
We should start with prayer … ask the Lord to help us as we try to refocus our hearts, deepen our love of the Lord and grow more spiritual. Spending more time doing that will leave less time for us to do other things that are not so healthy. (No need to go into details … you already know what those other things are).
Isaiah continues in this reading to describe the reward for those who remain in God’s good graces. He doesn’t use warm and friendly images (like soft blankets and soothing angelic harps) but there is a definite expectation of protection and care against all evil.
Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,
A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.
For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from storm and rain.
This is where we should focus our eyes and our hearts. We should want God’s love and protection more than our own desire for material things and artificial comforts. It sounds like an easy thing, but for many steeped in sinful behaviors or living in conditions that pull us away from goodness, it can be quite difficult.
It helps to think of it like competing in sports. Athletes and their coaches know that you can’t simply flip a switch and become the greatest athlete in the world. It takes a lot of work. A lot of discipline. Same thing in our spiritual lives. The transformation of our hearts will not occur in an instant. It will be gradual, taking time and discipline.
Find a good coach.
Do the necessary work.
Spend this Advent season in true preparation for the next coming of our Savior.
When that frightening blast of searing judgment comes your way, you will be glad that you were prepared.