“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” (Mt 6:24)
Of all of Christ’s teachings, this is perhaps one of the most difficult to live out on a daily basis, but it is especially challenging during the holiday season. Our human hearts always want to cling to the things of the world, with all of its glitter and attraction, and it is so easy to forget that money, things and possessions are empty and fleeting, and that they will never satisfy us.
To make matters worse this time of year, there are more things on display than at any other. Clothes, tvs, computers, phones, watches, jewelry, and more toys than you can imagine, not to mention trees, lights, decorations, ornaments, baked goods and stocking stuffers. In the midst of all of this stuff how can we possibly choose God over mammon this Advent, instead of giving in to the busyness and consumerism of the holiday season in our culture, so that we can live out Christ’s call in an authentic way?
The key, I think, is keeping always in the forefront of our hearts and minds the Christ child—born in a stable, and lying in a manger, come to save us from our sins. If we can begin Advent by meditating on Him—His poverty, His humility, His love and His goodness, everything else will fall into its proper place.
If we keep our focus on Christ through prayer and if we cultivate love for Him through good works this Advent, we will be freer to be the leaven in the world that Christ has called us to be.
When we become completely preoccupied with the mystery of the Incarnation this feast will be more peaceful, more meaningful, and it will change us. But this can be difficult in the midst of parties, Christmas plays, cookie exchanges, baking, visiting relatives and shopping for presents. So, what are some practical ways of keeping the baby Jesus in the center of our hearts, especially at such a busy time of year? Here are three ideas that take just a minute or two, and that can be done anywhere and at anytime:
1. Find a holy card or a picture of the nativity scene to keep with you in your wallet or purse, or in your car during Advent. It is so important to have a visual image to look at, during prayer, of course, but also any time throughout the day–in a difficult moment, when you are waiting at a red light, or perhaps when you begin to feel the stress of the holidays wearing on you.
2. Pray the third joyful mystery often, meditating on different aspects of Jesus’ birth: the cold, the discomfort, the disappointment Mary and Joseph must have felt, or the awe-inspiring beauty of our God wanting to be born in utter poverty and in complete humility. This mystery is a fountain of virtue for our daily lives, if we take the time to contemplate it.
3. Imagine you are a shepherd, kneeling before Jesus in the manger. The shepherds saw God because of their poverty, their humility, and their simplicity. We have much to learn from them and we actually have a lot in common spiritually if we think about it. What do we have that has not been given to us? What are we, in reality, but poor men and women before God? Placing ourselves before the Christ child, the night of His birth, in the cold, in the poverty of the scene, will do much to help us stay focused on the true meaning of this time of preparation.
Once we establish a focus on the baby Jesus, the true reason for the season, it will be easier to celebrate Advent and Christmas in a materially simpler way, so that we can share our blessings with our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Perhaps we can cut back on our Christmas budget and give a significant gift to a family that is struggling financially or a charity that helps the impoverished around the world (and who better to reach out to than the Syrian refugees right now? ) Certainly many of us are extremely blessed and have enough to share with those who are less fortunate.
It might seem odd to give God a present for Christmas, but it is His birthday, so in addition to giving alms we each have the opportunity this Advent to ask God as we approach Him in the manger what He would like from us this Christmas . . . maybe it is a sin we are attached to, maybe it is more time with Him in prayer, maybe it is giving him our desire for material things or success in our lives so that he can replace it with a stronger desire for Him. He will tell us if we ask, and if we give Him the space in our hearts to answer.
The more we focus on God, the more we give to others, and the more we give to Him, the more He will fill us with Himself. The more we are filled with God the more we can share Him with others, and the more we share Him with others the more He will change the world through us. This is the reason he took on human flesh: to save as many people as possible, out of His gratuitous love for us. If we are Christians we are called to help Him accomplish this task by sharing the good news:
“For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:11-12)
Let us not forget these words, which describe the true meaning of what we celebrate this time of year: the most beautiful night in the history of the world, when God became a baby, to live, to struggle, to teach us, to suffer and to give His life to save us from sin and death. It is His grace that saves, but we each have a part to play; we each have a mission in helping to bring this message of hope to the world. The first step is steeping our hearts in the mystery of His birth, then cultivating our love for Him through prayer and good works, giving something up for Him, and before we know it our hearts will be different. Our natural tendency to focus on possessions and things, especially this time of year, will be crowded out by the peace that only God can give, and we will be able to enter into Christmas in a whole new way.
Source: http://catholicexchange.com/focusing-on-the-christ-child-this-advent?mc_cid=091840b56a&mc_eid=9d05a73963 November 25, 2015.
Sarah Metts is a freelance writer, copy editor, and an aspiring Spanish historian. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Counseling from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She and her husband Patrick reside in the Atlanta area with their sons Jack and Joseph.