The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of us to change our Christmas plans. As stressful and inconvenient as this year may be for many us, maybe there’s a silver lining. We have a chance to see past the usual distractions and better embrace Advent and Christmas for what it really is — a holy time to prepare our hearts for Christ Jesus.
Many of us cannot partake in the more commercial and secular holiday traditions this year. There aren’t tree lighting ceremonies, public ice skating, nights to go out to a café and enjoy hot chocolate or enjoy family and work parties. But let’s think back to the original Advent. It’s not like Mary and Joseph had a chance to party down either. They had to make a hard journey through the desert to Bethlehem. Mary was 9 months pregnant and probably needed to walk most of the way. They certainly didn’t get to stop by a Starbucks and pick up their holiday-spiced latte.
And yet, despite the hardship of traveling, Mary and Joseph were filled with joy. Like any parent, they were eagerly anticipating their first-born child’s birth. And they knew that this baby was special – conceived by the Holy Spirit. Did they want to travel far from their home? No. But they had to under orders by the Roman emperor. But even in the midst of that hard journey, they found joy.
Does anyone want to celebrate Advent and Christmas with Covid-19 lockdowns? No, of course not. Like Mary and Joseph, we too have our hardships this Advent. But we can still eagerly anticipate Jesus’ birth as they did. Without all the commercial distractions, maybe this Advent and Christmas can take on a new meaning for many of us. It’s a good time to start or resurrect some of the more spiritual traditions that usually get lost in the noise of a normal December.
Perhaps this Advent would be a good time to prepare our souls for Jesus’ arrival. Make some sacrifices like giving up treats, alcohol, or some other luxuries like you do for Lent. Meditate on all the sacrifices Mary and Joseph needed to make while preparing for Jesus’ birth. Make Advent a time of preparation by increased prayer. In the time you would usually be fighting for a parking space at the mall, pray the Rosary instead. The time that you would be sipping on a hot chocolate at a tree lighting event, read the Bible. Light an Advent wreath and pray as a family. Give thanks for God’s blessings that you otherwise might not think about because you would normally be looking for that perfect toy at the store.
I know it’s hard to avoid the negative vibe this Advent and Christmas have. We often can’t change the challenges in our life. But we can choose how we want to respond to those challenges. Let’s take our queue from Mary and Joseph and ask God for the strength to approach our current challenges with a sense of joy. Just because this Advent is different, doesn’t mean it needs to be bad. Instead of focusing on what we’re losing, let’s focus on what God is giving us — an opportunity for Him to fill our lives with His grace.