Advent. A time of waiting and preparation, both for the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and for His glorious return. Sometimes we might feel as though there is too much going on in our lives to truly focus on the Advent season. But the season of Advent can be celebrated in our hearts in times of quiet prayer and pondering as well as in the midst of hectic preparations.
In the time leading up to the birth of our Lord, Mary and Joseph had a lot going on. The angel Gabriel comes and delivers a most wonderful message to the Blessed Mother and she joyfully accepts the will of the Father, even without knowing exactly what may be involved. Then an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph to assure him that what Mary said was true. He, too, accepts the will of the Father and takes Mary into his home. Suddenly their lives were forever changed. They had been two seemingly ordinary people preparing to be married. And now they were married and expecting a child. Not just any child, but the Son of God! The child they were preparing to welcome into the world would “save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
In what I can only imagine was a whirlwind of wonder and joy at the events that were transpiring I am sure that there were also some hectic moments. Mary went to visit Elizabeth for several months. They had the usual preparations for expecting a baby. And rather than staying close to home while waiting for the Christ Child to be born, they had to go and journey to Bethlehem for the census. Can you imagine being in Mary’s position? Leaving family and friends and the comfort of the home you have likely been preparing for months for the arrival of a baby, to travel while quite pregnant would be stressful for most of us. And what about Joseph? He loved Mary dearly and I am sure he was concerned for his new bride with all the commotion going on. I can imagine him frantically trying to find a place for them to rest before finding the stable. I think it is fair to say that most of us would be overwhelmed by it all.
Was Mary overwhelmed? Were Mary and Joseph stressed out and frantic as their plans kept changing? Mary and Joseph were people just like you and me. They had plenty on their plates! And in their time of waiting, they couldn’t constantly sit back in quiet solitude and contemplate the events that were going to transpire. They had to continue on in their preparations, deal with changing plans and forge ahead with their lives. They couldn’t escape the whirlwind of life.
What they could do was make time for the Lord in the midst of it all. They could trust in His Almighty plan for them, even when things seemed chaotic and confusing. They could lean on His promises and ponder in their hearts the glorious mystery they had been called to live out. They could proclaim His goodness even if it didn’t all make sense to them right away.
As we make our way through this Advent season we journey in our hearts alongside Mary and Joseph. The world around us is hectic. When everywhere we turn there is commotion and chaos, we can still find the peace of Advent within us. While we wait for Christmas to come there are things to be done! Gifts to wrap, cookies to bake, decorations to put up, family get-togethers to plan and attend. Even if we manage to avoid the frenzied pace that can accompany the Christmas season, what then? After Christmas we will still be waiting for Christ’s glorious return. Do we truly expect to avoid all stress, all chaos, all commotion for the rest of our lives?
That holy night in Bethlehem when Christ our King was born was truly glorious. But the journey wasn’t over. And it wasn’t always calm and peaceful. Imagine the commotion and uncertainty as they fled to Egypt in the middle of the night to save the Baby Jesus. And imagine the frantic search for the Child Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple. Even with the Son of God living there with them, I am sure that Mary and Joseph had their share of stressful and hectic moments. We all do!
Try as we might, the Christmas season may not be quiet and peaceful at every moment for us. We may not avoid all the chaos and commotion in this season or in the months and years to follow. Even so, we can still find peace. Emmanuel! God is with us! Even in the hectic moments, He is there. And those moments will seem a little less hectic if we strive to remember that. When we feel the frantic pressure of waiting in long lines to purchase gifts we can say a prayer of thanks for the loved ones in our lives. When we find ourselves stuck in an endless traffic jam we can take advantage of the extra time and say a few prayers while we wait. When life is swirling around us and we seem to find confusion every way we turn, we can trust that God is there beside us even when we can’t see the way ahead.
So this Advent season, if despite your efforts to remain calm and peaceful you find yourself stuck in the midst of the commotion, look to Mary and Joseph. They show us how to follow the Lord and trust in His ways while still living out our daily lives, crazy though they may be. Things may get hectic, plans may change, but God remains with us. He is there in the calm. He is there in the chaos. God is with us! Emmanuel!