Pulpit Reflections by Fr. Donald Imming For almost everything we do in life, preparation is important, sometimes vital. Without education, at least through high school, most employers will not hire someone. For traditional professions, such as law and medicine, there is lengthy education and training required. There is a growing consensus that some kind of formal marriage preparation is highly desirable. It is foolhardy to try to field an army without basic training.
Over the centuries the church has wisely understood that a fruitful � spiritually fruitful celebration of Christmas requires preparation, too. That's why we have the season of Advent that begins each year four Sundays before Christmas. Advent is not Christmas, just as Christmas is not Advent. Advent is a time for spiritual schooling to prepare us for the graces of Christmas.
Culturally we have a problem. Christmas begins even before Advent has started. Consequently preparation for Christmas, spiritual preparation, is short circuited. It is impossible for any individual to change the course of a culture. But we can nevertheless try to find time to prepare ourselves spiritually for the feast ahead. We will need to take some time-outs, as it were, from the rush of Christmas happenings. Families can do the same.
The Common Lectionary for Advent provides us with beautiful and rich scripture fare. The principal voice of this season is Isaiah, the prophet, and John the Baptizer is his powerful and eloquent echo. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord" is his principal message. On the first Sunday of Advent we hear Isaiah saying: "Come, let us climb the Lord's mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!" (Isaiah 2/3 and 5) How can we prepare for Christmas spiritually? By taking time-out to pursue the Scriptures daily. Isaiah himself would be rich pickings.
A second way to prepare spiritually for Christmas is through prayer. The gospels tell us that "Mary pondered all these things in her heart." Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been for centuries taken by many Christians as a model of contemplative prayer.
We need to tune out the noise and in silence listen to God speaking to our hearts. But prayer need not always be contemplative. Many families and congregations have found the Advent wreath as an opportune occasion for family and communal prayer, brief, but significant. When done regularly throughout Advent, it can be a good spiritual teacher.
God has many rich graces to give us. But are we tuned in? If our glass is small, we can receive little. If large, we can receive much. If we are tuned in, God can communicate with us and we with him. But if not, we might as well be deaf.
With the prophet Samuel let us say: "Speak Lord, your servant hears." (I Samuel 3/9)
Father Donald Imming is pastor at St. Agnes Church, Vermillion.