“Watch, therefore — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning — lest he comes suddenly and finds you asleep.” (Mark 13:35-36)
Back then in school, my rector taught us about the 5p’s of success. It says: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. If something has to be good, then it must first be prepared for. The Church in its wisdom understands the importance of preparation hence, it has declared that four weeks before Christmas should be dedicated as a period of preparation for the events and ceremonies of Christmas. This four week period of preparation is what we call Advent.
Already, many have started making plans for the Christmas, some are repainting their houses, children are asking for new clothes, new shoes and new toys. Some are stocking their homes with gallons of fuel and diesel so that during the holidays, there would be worry about the usual fuel scarcity we witness year after year during this period. Nonetheless, there is no preparation for Christmas that is as important as an inward spiritual renewal. This is because if Christ is not born anew in your life this Christmas, your celebration would just a mere dissipation; a waste of time and money.
Let us now consider some of the vital points for our spiritual preparation for Christmas which our readings today highlight:
1. Resolve to Walk Away From the Darkness of Sin.
The first step to spiritual renewal is an examination of conscience. If you want to renovate a house, you don’t just start breaking it apart. The first thing you do is to go round the house and inspect it thoroughly. You find those places that are leaking and those places that are damaged. You take note of the things to throw away and the things to keep. This is exactly what we are called to do within our own spiritual houses this period.
If you don’t notice the cobwebs on your ceiling, you might just assume your house is clean. This is the time to look inwards and take a broom to remove the cobwebs blocking you from God. When you read today’s first reading, you notice that Isaiah is asking for God’s mercy and forgiveness. He says: “We have sinned… we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:5-6).
When last did you go for Confession? Before confessing your sins, did you examine your heart thoroughly? Did you identify your sins and the factors leading to such sins? It is one thing to replace a damaged ceiling in the house but if you don’t find out the cause (perhaps a leaking roof), that ceiling would keep going bad. Many of us have become habitual sinners today and have lost the sense of sin because we never take time to examine our conscience and to find out why we keep falling into sin.
Like persons who work in a refuse disposal company, we become so used to the smell that we no longer think it is smelling. Let us pray with the Psalmist today: “O God, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall saved.”
2. Be Vigilant, Don’t Fall for Satan’s Trap.
Just as we are preparing for a spiritual renewal this Christmas, the devil and his agents are seriously planning and strategizing how to pull our society into more and more sinfulness. For instance, watch out for the kind of dress style you would soon begin to see around, watch out for kind of entertainment and shows that would be organized this period. It is not ordinary, it is a spiritual battle for your soul.
If we do not open our spiritual eyes, we would get carried away by the evil wind that always blows hot during Christmas season. St. Peter puts it beautifully when he wrote: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith.” (1st Peter 5: 8-9). Yes, the devil is like a lion looking for people to devour. You would be tempted more than ever before, you would have more invitations to parties and free drinks, you would have more friends coming over and if you are not careful, you would let down your spiritual guard.
In our Gospel passage today, Jesus says: “Watch, therefore — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning – lest he comes suddenly and finds you asleep.” (Mark 13:35-36). The opposite of being vigilant is falling asleep. Just as we have vigilante groups guarding our neighbourhoods, you too need to become a vigilante over your heart.
3. Don’t be Idle, Get Busy Doing the Master’s Work
Still in our Gospel passage, Jesus describes the season of Advent through this analogy: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” (Mark 13:34) Many consider Christmas as a time to rest but like Jesus, our Master tells us, we must get busy. Take note of that statement: “each with his work.”
And what is this work that our Master wants to find us doing? It is the work of charity, the work of giving things away, the work of helping others, making sacrifices for one another just as Christ left His glory in heaven sacrificing everything for our salvation. This is why in our opening prayer at mass today, we prayed: “Grant your faithful, we pray almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds…” Take note: “Righteous Deeds.”
The second aspect of this work is telling people the good news about Jesus Christ; reminding people that Christmas without Christ is a mere crisis. Become like one of the angels, go and announce to the shepherds that Jesus Christ is born.
If I want to invite an important visitor to my house, the first thing I do is to ensure my house is clean and has the needed facilities to make the person comfortable. Right? We have a very very very important visitor, the greatest of the greatest is coming. What are you doing to prepare for Him?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, grant us the resolve to run forth to meet you with righteous deeds so that we may be worthy to possess your heavenly kingdom. Amen.
Bible Study: Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1-8, 1st Corinthians 1:3-9 and Mark 13:33-37).