Placing the last few ornaments on the Christmas tree, the lyrics of a traditional carol floated through The Soulful Catholic’s living room:
A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.
And that right there sums up the beauty of Advent: It’s all about hope in Christ. Right here in the middle of a deeply divided and troubled world — a world not unlike that of Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth — Jesus steps into time to reconcile us to the Father.
Visitors who venture to Bethlehem today will encounter the Basilica of the Nativity built over the site Jesus was born. It’s the oldest church in the Holy Land and has been revered by Christians for centuries. To get inside that hallowed space, you’ve got to bend down and pass through what’s known as the “humble door.” In other words, you’ve got to make yourself small.
Humility is a virtue that’s underrated in 2021. It’s something most of us are afraid of as we worry we’ll be forgotten or left by the wayside. And yet humility is the beginning of wisdom. It’s the path to following Christ, who urges us to follow Him along the narrow way (Matthew 7:13).
That narrow way is easily obscured in the lead-up to what’s been dubbed by secularists as the “Winter Holiday.” The need for God that’s built into every human heart gets filled up with things that never quite satisfy as the frenzy of consumerism concurrent with outrage over the latest political scuffles and the lure sensuality invade our hearts. Insidiously, these traps can ensnare us without an intentional plan to enter into the spirit of Advent.
Advent is about humbling ourselves, about making room in our minds and hearts for the Lord. It’s about quieting ourselves and making an effort to listen for that still, small voice that urges us to trust in a God who never fails us. A God who cared enough to become one of us and shows us the way to freedom and peace. It’s a path strewn with rocks, pitfalls and troubles but which ends in glory for the believer.
During Advent we recall that Jesus Christ humbled Himself to take on flesh and live among us, being born of the Virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem. His mother felt His tiny hand grip hers in the frigid night air as shepherds looked on. Those same tiny hands would learn a carpenter’s trade and would one day be cruelly pierced by nails for each and every one of our sins.
Yes, Advent is about hope, the hope that’s ours because Christ humbled Himself and bore the cross to Calvary, dying for sinners like you and me. In the Nicene Creed each Sunday, we say, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His kingdom will have no end.”
Those words ought to motivate us to turn to the Lord and repent of our foolish pride, our insistence on doing things our way, our selfish desires that cause so much pain. They should also fill us with hope and remind us that this world and its troubles are passing away. That in the blink of an eye we will stand before God.
At Christ’s Second Coming, all of creation will witness God’s justice and mercy. Jesus tells His followers “… the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5: 28-29).
Are we ready for that? A humble heart, a heart that’s repented from every sin, from bitterness and pride and greed, is a heart that beats in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s a heart that trusts that those who love Him and serve Him in this weary world will be happy with Him forever in the next.
O Holy Night that saw the birth of our Savior, Christ the Lord, we wait for You in hope!