So, it’s that time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas! So pretty much, it’s the start of the Christmas season. One of my favorite times of the year when I was a Catholic was Advent, the liturgical season preceding Christmas Day. For 4 weeks, Catholics (and other Christians) prepare for the coming of the Savoir by gathering with an Advent wreath-a wreath with four candles (3 purple, 1 rose)- and pray and reflect in order to get ready for Christmas day. As a Latter-day Saint, I have decided that since observing Advent helps me spiritually, I will be continuing to celebrate Advent. Every week I will reflect on a verse or passage that I read as I was lighting the Advent candles and singing Christmas hymns. And since we are already in the second week of Advent, this post will be a reflection on the first and second weeks of Advent.
First Week of Advent- “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.”
Read Luke 1:26-38
The first week of Advent we are reading the story of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel came to Mary to give her the news that she has been chosen to be the mother of the long promised messiah, the Son of God, a member of the Godhead. The angel’s greeting, “Hail! Full of grace” is one of celebration. The Greek word for “Hail” that is used here can also be translated as “Rejoice” and grace is defined (at least in the source I used to write a paper this week) as “participation in the life of God.” So the angel tells Mary, “Rejoice you who participate in the life of God.”
To participate in the life of God is to “hear his Word and keep it” (Luke 11:28). To participate in the life of God is to place His will first and submit your will to His so that eventually His will becomes yours as well. Do this and you will have reason to rejoice. Haven’t you ever noticed the joy you get from keeping the Word of God? Haven’t you noticed the pure joy you get when you participate in the life of God, that is, do His will? Yes? Then rejoice!
Thing is, it takes courage and faith to put yourself in the hands of God like that. Mary is a example of that in the Annunciation when she says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” She was aware of the Old Testament verses of the coming of the messiah, so it is likely she knew this is what the angel was referring to and knew who her son would be, But there was still uncertainty. She did not know what would happen. This was a life changing event with ramifications that she couldn’t even imagine. Yet what was her response? Not just a Yes! but she declared herself as entirely to the Lord submitting her will to His will. Do we do that?
During one of the sessions at General Conference, as I sat at the Conference Center, I was thinking about Mary’s response to the angel and how much faith it must have taken to say what she did. Inspired by that, I wrote this prayer which I now have written on my Book of Mormon:
Heavenly Father, I’m going to take this one day at a time. If you call me, if you ask anything of me, give me the grace to say “yes” freely and fully. Give me the grace to give it all up to you and for you if you just ask of it.
Second Week of Advent- “For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
Read Luke 1:39-45
The Visitation, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist. The Bible tells us that “when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). It is said that John the Baptist leaped in the womb because when he heard Mary’s voice, he recognized that the Savoir was near. He knew that the Savoir was in Mary. He recognized it. Do we?
Do we recognize Christ in others? When we speak with others, do we recognize Christ in them? Or better yet, do people recognize Christ in us. As members of His Church, we are called to bring Christ out to the world. Yet in the daily struggle that is our lives, we fail to do this. We forget that we have Christ with us and we need to show it to the world so that they too can leap for joy, the same joy we leaped to when we first found Christ and the same joy we find when we continue to encounter Him.
But like John, we must recognize Him. That’s a hard thing to do sometimes, see Christ in the world. But the Savior is there. God is there. We must look for him and jump for joy when we do. I took a course about a year ago and the one thing I learned from that class is the importance of recognizing God in the world, recognizing the Creator in the creation and giving thanks to God for it. Do we do this? We must. Just as the baby John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy when he recognized the Savoir, we must recognize Christ and God in the world and rejoice (hail) and give thanks to Him when we do find it.
Let’s remember that, keep that in our hearts to ponder this Christmas season.