Rushing from one store to the next, shopping until you drop, buying to your heart’s content, bombardment from an endless cacophony of noises, eating and drinking and partying, and with this, the constant temptation to compare yourself to others so as to keep up with the Jones’—for a huge multitude of people, this portrays the season leading up to the most important birthday, Christmas—the birthday of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
How easy it is for most of us to be drawn almost unaware into this impetuous and perilous vortex of preparing for Christmas!!! How easy it is to be blinded into believing that this materialistic, hedonistic, and sometimes even atheistic manner of living preceding Christmas is par for the course and the best way to prepare for Christmas. Indeed, we all have blind spots and this can be a glaring blind spot immersing us in a darkness that permeates our whole spirit!
With these perils knocking at our door we would like to offer ten concrete remedies we can utilize so that, despite the materialistic and paganistic milieu that has all but engulfed us, we can prepare ourselves for the best Christmas in our lives. Of course this is the reason for the season: Christ was born of the Virgin Mary and placed in the manger for all of us to adore in our hearts, minds, and souls in time and for all eternity in heaven.
The following are concrete suggestions to help us live out Advent in the most efficacious manner so that Christmas Eve Jesus will be born in the Little Town of Bethlehem, which means House of Bread, but also, be born in the depths of my own heart and soul. “Come Lord Jesus come, through the Heart of Mary!”
1. CLEAN THE STABLE OF YOUR SOUL. Face it with blunt honesty, if we are living in the state of Mortal sin then irrespective of all the exterior actions we may carry out, they have very little value. By mortal sin we have freely and willingly rejected Jesus in our lives. However, He is always knocking at the portal of your soul desiring most ardently to enter and to dine with you and you with Him. (Rev. 3) Therefore, to prepare for Jesus’ birth, prepare yourself by making a good Sacramental Confession to the priest who Represents Jesus, the Divine Physician.
2. HOW TO MAKE A GOOD CONFESSION… Get a good Examination of Conscience booklet to guide you and go through the following typical classical steps to Confess well with trust in God’s infinite mercy:
a) EXAMINATION. Examine your conscience on the ten Commandments. (Using a good Examination of Conscience booklet as mentioned above.)
b) SORROW FOR SIN. Beg for the grace for both imperfect contrition and perfect contrition. Imperfect? Fear of the Lord and fear of losing your soul if you die in Mortal sin. Perfect? Firm desire not to sin because of your overflowing love for God and because you do not want to hurt your greatest lover—Jesus, the King of all Hearts!
c) FIRM PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT. Make the firm proposal to avoid any person, place, thing, or circumstance that can lead you into sin. Remember the saying: “He who plays with fire will be burnt.”
d) CONFESS SINS TO THE PRIEST. Now confess your sins to the priest and have these three qualities: transparency, humility, and obedience. Do not forget to confess all of the mortal sins, including species (kind of sin) and number of times.
e) PENANCE. Carry out the penance that the priest gives to you as soon as possible!
3. SILENCE. Cardinal Robert Sarah has written an excellent book on the importance of silence called The Power of Silence. If time permits, read it and strive to cultivate both exterior silence and interior silence of heart. May the hymn Silent Night resonate in your heart even now. In silence, God speaks in the depths of our heart.
4. PRAYER. The weeks and days that lead up to Christmas should be imbued with prayer. Vocal prayer, Novenas to Mary, Lectio-Divina, Biblical meditations, Holy Hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, Hymns and canticles, Liturgy of the Hours, Marian prayers and devotions, the quiet and silent contemplation of the Crèche or Christmas Scene (As encouraged by Pope Francis is his recent Apostolic Letter, December 1st 2019). All of these prayers and much more are wonderful gestures to prepare us for the birth of Jesus.
5. MASS. Of course the greatest of all prayers is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The word Christmas—actually means “The Mass of Christ”. The word Bethlehem means House of Bread. And of course in the Our Father we pray give us this day our daily bread—which can be interpreted Sacramentally as daily reception of Holy Communion, the Bread of Life. Step back and look at your daily schedule to see if you can give the Lord half an hour a day for attendance at Daily Mass and reception of Holy Communion: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (The Our Father)
6. VISIT THE LORD JESUS IN THE LITTLE HOUSE! Why not spend some time to visit the Lord Jesus in the Little House! This Little House is called the Tabernacle. This Little House contains the Creator of the entire universe. After the priest consecrates the Host in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass then Jesus is really, truly, and substantially present, called “The Real Presence”— the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. He so ardently desires that you come to visit Him. While before the Little House where the King of the universe resides talk to Him—open up your heart to Him, pour out your heart to Him. With what words? Whatever words you like! Love Him; adore Him; praise Him; worship Him. Then tell Him all that is on your mind. Tell Him you are sorry for your sins and failures. Become a beggar and ask Him for whatever you need, for yourself as well as for others. Never leave the Little House with the King who is listening to you so attentively, without thanking Him for so many gifts that He has enriched you with. With the Psalmist open your heart in gratitude: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His mercy endures forever.” (Ps 107:1)
7. HELP SOMEBODY: THE POOR, THE SICK, THE LONELY. As you journey toward the Stable of Bethlehem have your eyes open and your ears attuned to Jesus who comes to us in the humble disguise of the poorest of the poor. (Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta) Never forget the Last Judgment words of the Lord Jesus: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me.” (Mt 25:40) An infirm elderly person— visit them! A lonely, abandoned person— greet them with a smile and an attentive ear. A widow who suffers the loss of her husband— bring her a gift, starting with your own time and presence! Some sick person who has an incurable disease— offer them words of hope, of heaven that awaits them!!! Never forget the Golden Rule that we all know and understand if applied to ourselves: “Do to others what you want them to do for you.”
8. READ AND MEDITATE ON THE WORD OF GOD. If we truly want to know and love God and receive Jesus into the depths of our heart, then we must immerse ourselves into the riches of the Word of God. How fortunate we are today to have access to the Word of God, to be able to read it and even listen to it. Saint Jerome gently rebukes us: “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” In imitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary who meditated upon the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart pondering over the riches of God’s Word, may we also have a real hunger for God’s Word. With determined determination, Jesus responded to the devil who pointed out bread to Him: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4) The bread of God’s Word to nourish our mind should be our daily sustenance.
9. SMALL ACTS OF PENANCE—SELF-DENIAL. Jesus said that some devils can be cast out only through prayer and fasting. Saint Therese stated: “Holiness depends on doing the ordinary things of life with extraordinary love.” Learn to say no to an extra cookie; skip sugar in your coffee; give up condiments on your meal; drink water instead of Coca-Cola. By saying NO to ourselves, we are saying YES to allowing Jesus to be born in the very depths of our mind, heart, and soul. Penance can help us to unclutter our cluttered interior basement, the basement of our soul.
10. MARY: THE MOTHER OF GOD AND CHRISTMAS. If we really want to prepare for the Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us turn to Mary, the Mother of the Lord Jesus. There are several ways this can be carried out:
a) CONTEMPLATE a beautiful artistic depiction of Mary in the Annunciation, or the Visitation, or the Nativity. Use good art to lift your mind up to heaven.
b) CRESCHE/CHRISTMAS SCENE. Set up the Crèche or Christmas scene and imagine Mary holding the Child Jesus in her arms.
c) ROSARY. Pray the most Holy Rosary focusing most upon the five Joyful Mysteries, all of which center on the Birth of Jesus in the stable of Bethlehem.
d) ANGELUS. Pray the beautiful Marian prayer, the Angelus which summarizes our Catholic faith—the Incarnation, Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
e) OUR BLESSED MOTHER. Beg Mary for the grace to dispose your heart for the coming of the Lord Jesus, that He may be born in your heart anew this Christmas!