Advent is the season for renewing our awareness of God’s presence in our lives.
The Scripture readings we hear at the beginning of Advent are about “waking up” and “being alert.” There is a reason for that.
I think we all have the experience sometimes of feeling like we are “sleepwalking” through life — doing the same things over and over, every day, fulfilling our duties, carrying out the same tasks without thinking too much about it.
Even our spiritual life can become just a routine — going through the motions, repeating our prayers, without much thought or feeling. No matter who we are, all of us can get into feeling this way at certain moments in our lives.
So we need a fresh start, a new beginning. That is Advent. The Church builds in this season of Advent to give us a kind of “wake-up” call, to help us restore the sense of wonder, the awe that we should have about our lives.
The miracle of Christmas that we are waiting for is the miracle of God’s love for us, the amazing truth that he has come to walk with us and to share his life with us.
God’s presence in our lives is not abstract or vague.
Our God is a personal God. This is what the Incarnation means. Jesus took on human flesh to become one of us and to become one with us. He has united himself to each one of us. That means that he is present personally in your life, in my life and in the life of every person.
He is present at every moment in our lives — in the people we meet, in the situations we encounter every day. But sometimes we miss him because we are not paying attention, because we get too distracted by the business of living — because sometimes we are “sleeping” and we cannot recognize him.
“Therefore, stay awake!” Jesus tells us in the Gospel that begins the Advent season.
Being “awake” means paying attention.
Our world is filled with signs of God’s loving presence. God is everywhere. He is involved in our lives and he is working in the events in the world. Our challenge is to open our eyes to see him, to open our ears to hear his voice and to open our hearts to live in his presence and to do his will.
So let us allow these weeks of Advent to draw us into a new awareness of God’s presence, his friendship.
One way we can grow in our awareness of God is to spend more time reading the Gospels. We need to read the life of Jesus like it is a letter he is writing to us personally as his friends. Ask him to speak to you from his Word. When we learn to read this way, we feel how close he is to us, we sense his love and his care. We become aware that he is walking with us on the journey of our life.
Another way to grow in our awareness of God is to serve others in works of mercy and charity. When we are walking on the path of service, we are drawing closer to God. Every person we meet bears the image of God and is a child of God just as we are. But Jesus comes to us in a special way, in those who are poor and vulnerable and those who suffer injustice.
We should get into the habit of reminding ourselves all the time that God is with us, that we are in his gaze at all times. No matter where we are or what we are doing.
We should talk to God all day in our hearts. Ask him to guide you, to show you the way to go and what you should do. When we pray, we bring ourselves into the awareness that God is listening — and that he is calling to us to open our hearts and respond to his love.
Some people like to keep a small “Advent journal,” and every day take a minute to write down the different moments when they felt God’s loving presence during the course of the day. That might be a good idea for us, too.
Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you. And together let us try to spend these weeks of Advent trying to be more awake, more alert to the loving presence of God.
Let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to accompany us on this journey of Advent. And let us ask her to help us to find Jesus in the everyday realities of our lives.