Like Mary, we can say yes to God this Advent season
Advent is almost over and the time to set up trees, hang garlands, wrap presents, and drink hot chocolate is in full seing. But, with all the holiday goings-on, it can be tough to focus our attention on Christ. So, what can we do to put Jesus at the center of our celebrations?
Mother Mary gives us a beautiful example of how we can celebrate Christ this Christmas (and every day) — by saying yes to Jesus. The Lord did not force, command, or coerce Mary to accept the high calling of giving birth to the Son of God. Instead, Mary chose this honor by her fiat. She accepted the possibility of ostracization from her friends and family — or even death by stoning — to say “yes” to God’s will for her life. Like Mary, we can say “yes” to God this holiday season.
God asks something from each of us, though most of us won’t have Gabriel delivering the Lord’s requests. Instead, God often whispers His requests; He usually asks very quietly. Sometimes — especially during hectic times — it is difficult to discern His voice.
Our lives are loud and filled to the brim with buzz and business, especially around Christmas time. Advertisements sweep through our mail, TV, and phones, imploring us to buy, buy, buy. Purchasing this item will save you money. That one will make your life better. The devil also whispers to us, making promises he won’t keep. Letting a little greed and covetousness slip into our lives is, unfortunately, too easy.
Amidst all the noise, how can we hear the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit, who often speaks through silence itself?
It takes regular prayer time and examinations of conscience to know what is God versus what is the world. You have to know God’s voice to be able to recognize it.
We must commit to forming good practices and habits. We can learn to recognize His voice over time, just as sheep can learn to recognize the voice of their shepherd.
Make some new habits this Advent season. At the end of each evening, reflect on your day and count your blessings. Ask God to show you your sins so you can repent and rejoice in Christ’s loving embrace. And as you think about your day, resolve that each day can be better than the one before.
By getting to know God as our friend, we can recognize His voice much more easily, just like we can identify the voice of any of our other friends.
Another strategy we can use is discernment. Fortunately, we are not alone in this. Many other friends and saints have come before us who also strove to make out the voice of God apart from the cacophony of everyday noises.
When we have a decision to make and aren’t sure which one God wants us to pick, Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends praying to God about it and using your God-given reason to help you sort through the problem.
You can imagine someone you don’t know is stuck in the same dilemma. How would you advise them? Or imagine yourself at the end of your life, about to meet Christ face-to-face. Which option would you be proudest to share with Jesus when He inquires about your life?
And once you’ve prayed and thought about what you should do, you can ask God to bless your choice by giving you peace (or to show you a better way, if that’s what He wants).
It’s not always easy to follow God’s call but doing so should bring peace. We may feel like God is asking us to do things we wouldn’t typically choose to do on our own or to sacrifice more than we would like for Him. But following His call brings goodness and joy for us, and for those we impact.
As we close out this Advent season, remember that we can be the light of Christ for others through our actions. Let’s work together to say “yes” to God, just like Mother Mary did when she gave birth to Jesus.