In Lent we focus on our personal conversion as we prepare to celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Christ. We give up things that lead us to sin or that stand in the way of following the Lord more closely.
Advent is different. It is the time not only to prepare for the celebration of the Lord's birth, but to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. How do we go about that?
At the end of the Church's liturgical year and at it's beginning in Advent we are invited to focus on the end times, on the coming of God's reign in its fullness. We are reminded that we do not know the day or the hour, that we must always be ready. We are also invited to wait for these times in hope, not in gloom and doom, as the realization of all of God's promises and all of humanity's hopes.
Practically then what are we to do?
1. Realize that even now the Kingdom of God is among us, not yet in its fullness, but among us nonetheless. With all of the negative news around us, with all of the divisiveness brought about by our recent election it is easy to get mired in negativity. Perhaps part of an Advent penance would be to daily look for signs of the Kingdom among us. There are countless stories of forgiveness, of differences being overcome, of extraordinary kindness being granted, of harmony between races and religions. The mainstream media don't highlight these, but they are there. Look for these things daily, thank God for them and say "They Kingdom come!"
2. Try to be an instrument of the coming of the Kingdom. Strive to be a light in the darkness. Reach out to someone or some group that feels alienated or marginalized. Work for justice where there is injustice. Be a peacemaker where there is violence. This may be on a grand scale or within your own circle of family and friends.
3. Don't give into cynicism. This is one of the most unchristian of virtues. Remember that we "wait in blessed hope for the coming of the Savior, that in God's time All will be well.
4. None of us can help but getting swept up in the secular, commercial celebration of the holidays, but take time to prepare your heart for celebrating the birth of our Lord. Hold back a bit on getting up decorations as a reminder that Advent is a time of waiting, waiting for the birth of Jesus to be celebrated, and waiting for His coming.
So what are you doing for Advent?