By Lenora Grimaud

Advent is a time of waiting—waiting in joyful anticipation of the coming of the Lord. It calls us to wake up from our sleep and to pray—to wake up from our preoccupation with the world and ourselves—to focus on the real meaning of life and the hope that awaits us. When we think of “waiting and praying” it might seem to represent passivity, solitude, idleness—doing nothing—just sitting and waiting for the Lord to come. However, Advent is actually the busiest season of the year. It is the most joyful season and at the same time, the most stressful season of the year.

Advent is also a time of preparation—a time for bringing things to completion, as well as preparing for a new beginning. It is a time of preparing for a Feast—a special celebration. When two people are preparing for their wedding day, the happiest day of their lives, the preparations for that day are almost enough to make them throw in the towel before the great day arrives. This is often how we feel about Christmas. We endure so much stress that we begin to wish it was over and done with, or that it didn’t exist at all. However, even more important than preparing for a celebration, Advent is about preparing the “way of the Lord”—preparing our hearts to receive him, through repentance and reconciliation with God and others—especially family. Jesus didn’t come into the world as an orphan, but as a member of a family. Christmas is about family becoming family—becoming a holy family. It’s about families coming together in love and thanksgiving, and giving birth to “God-with-us”—Emmanuel. The Church is also a family—a family of families—that begins in the home. The greatest gift we can give one another is Jesus, the gift of love.

Advent challenges us to balance many contrasts in our lives, to allow them to work together and to complement each other. Christmas represents “peace on earth and good will to all humankind.” We are challenged to allow the lion and the lamb to lie down together (ISA. 11:6)—to allow strength and weakness to go hand in hand.

Advent challenges us to balance work and leisure, giving and receiving, structure and spontaneity, responsibility and freedom, relationship and solitude, and our own personal strengths and weaknesses. We are challenged to work as though we were being entertained and to make our entertainments an act of love and giving to others. We are challenged to receive while giving and to give while receiving, to put our heart and soul into both giving and receiving. We are challenged to be spontaneous in the midst of planning and the structures that bind us; to make proper use of our time while being open to the unexpected; to prepare and plan while going with the flow. We are challenged to freely accept and fulfill our responsibilities, as well as to use our freedom responsibly. We are challenged to bring God into our relationships and time with others, and to bring others into our solitude and prayer with God. We are challenged to make our hearts a “cloister” and to go within in the midst of noise, busyness, work, and social gatherings. In our solitude, we are challenged to let go of all the stress, worries, plans, work, busyness, people, places, and things, and give them all to the Lord in prayer. We are challenged to be both, gentle and firm with ourselves; to accept the things we cannot change and to have the courage to change the things we can. We are challenged to acknowledge our strengths with humility and to use them with confidence.

Advent challenges us to be both, “Martha and Mary”—to be contemplative and active. It challenges us to pray while working and work at praying; to make prayer an act of love. Martha and Mary, two sisters, were close friends of Jesus. Martha was a worker and Mary was a contemplative. Mary reminds us that we need to be present to Jesus and to others. She reminds us that we need to “be still and listen.” She also reminds us that we spend a lot of time and energy doing many things that are unnecessary and superficial. She reminds us of what is really important for us and the world. Martha reminds us that it is not enough to sit and listen, we must also respond. She reminds us that love is active and we need to find ways to manifest our love to God and others. First and foremost, this includes the ordinary duties and obligations of our state in life—to family, friends, Church, and community.

Exactly how we cope with all the ambiguity, and how we balance all these contrasts is different for each person, and depends on grace from God. Lord, give us the grace to balance all the contrasts and ambiguity that we experience in life. Help us to live the Advent Season throughout our lives; to experience the incarnation of Jesus and celebrate Christmas all year round, in freedom and joy.


Dear sweet Jesus, as I contemplate the lowliness of your birth in that humble stable, I am reminded that you are the King of Kings, the Lord and Master of all humankind; Lord of heaven and earth. You are above all humans, and the greatest of all humans; you are God. For such great majesty, you should have had the most magnificent of temples in which to be born into this world, in which to grow into manhood; a temple more glorious than the temple built by Solomon. And yet, Lord, my King, you chose to humble yourself, to be born in the lowest of dwellings. You chose a temple fit only for animals, a common stable.

What do you mean to teach us through your Incarnation, Lord? Is it that there is no soul in all of creation that is too poor, too lowly, that you would not come to make it your temple, your place of birth? Or even more to the point, are you trying to tell us that you choose to be born, only, in those souls who make themselves poor in spirit; those who are truly humble, who consider themselves unworthy of such a noble guest; those who would be truly honored at your coming, such as a poor peasant who opens his door to find his King asking for a drink of water?

Oh Lord, you so deserve holy souls to be your place of birth, but there is not one good human, one truly holy soul amongst all mankind, except for your holy mother, Mary. Our souls are like that stable, a dwelling place for animals. Yet, you chose to be born in the hearts of sinners, in hearts who worshiped idols, the golden calf, instead of God. You came to transform these humble stables into a glorious temple of the living God, by your presence. You, Jesus, are our holiness, and by your presence, you make us holy. Oh, my good and wonderful God, like Mary and Joseph who took shelter in a stable where the blessed Mother came to give birth to Jesus, the Holy Trinity takes shelter in this humble soul of ours, and Jesus, the Son of God, is born of the Holy Spirit, while the Father stands by in holy expectation.

The stable becomes the temple, where the Son of God is presented to the Father. The temple becomes the carpenter shop, where the “Son of Man” grows in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and men. The carpenter shop becomes the desert where the Son of God is prepared for his ministry. The desert becomes the tomb, where Jesus is prepared for resurrection. The tomb becomes the Kingdom of God, the resurrected life. Lord, you chose to come into these stables that we might come into your Kingdom. All praise and thanksgiving to God the Almighty, for his merciful and bountiful love!


Oh, my God, when I come before you in prayer, I shall think of the Nativity. I shall see my soul as that humble stable in Bethlehem. Within dwells the Holy Trinity. Mary shall symbolize for me, the Holy Spirit revealing your love for your Church, as a Mother for her babe in arms. Joseph shall symbolize for me, the Father revealing his paternal love; a model of strength and courage, watching over his family as a loving protector. I shall see the love of a husband for his wife, as well as a mother and father for their son.

Sometimes, I shall be as the shepherds looking on in silent adoration, with no gifts of my own to offer except praise and thanksgiving. As I gaze upon the Nativity, I shall see all of the Trinity, but my eyes shall be centered upon the Christ Child, the Son of God, the King of Kings. As I praise Jesus, the Son, I shall also be praising the Father and the Holy Spirit, just as Mary and Joseph rejoiced in the adoration and praise of Jesus, their beloved son. In the vast host of heaven who came down to sing praises to God at the birth of the Christ Child, I shall see all the Saints. I shall be in communion with them as my praises are joined with theirs.

At other times, I shall be as the Magi, bearing gifts and bowing down in adoration. I shall offer gifts of all my possessions, all my love, all my faith, and all my hope. I shall present these gifts in the name of the Son. Even so, the Father and the Holy Spirit shall share in the receiving of these gifts, as well as Joseph and Mary. I shall offer my gifts to God in behalf of Jesus. May all the families of the earth be reborn in the image of the Holy Family of the Nativity.