By Sam Guzman (www.catholicexchange.com)
If you’re like me, Advent is a difficult season to celebrate, and is often overlooked. Before the first candle on the Advent wreath is even lit, our schedules fill up with gifts to buy, errands to run, and parties to attend. Through the hustle and bustle, we can forget the true purpose of Advent, to prepare for the coming of Christ in our hearts. To keep the focus on Christ this Advent, I recommend the book, Jesus is the Gift, the Spirituality of Advent & Christmas by Regis Flaherty.
The book’s chapters are based on talks the author has given over the years on Advent. Flaherty invites the reader to enter into the mystery of the Incarnation through the lens of key Biblical figures: John the Baptist, the Blessed Mother, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, Anna and Simeon.
He highlights the virtues of each person and then connects their story to our lives as Christians today. At the end of each chapter, Flaherty gives the reader a point for reflection and one for action.
I really enjoyed the suggestions, especially the one to reflect upon the history of my relationship with God. It was good to step back and contemplate the ways that God has worked throughout my life. In a fast-paced society, it can be a challenge to remember God’s faithfulness to us. Advent is a perfect time to slow down and “remember the marvels the Lord has done” (Psalm 105:5).
One part of the book that I especially liked was the discussion on joy and depression. I had not realized that:
“There have been many saints and deeply religious people who struggled with depression and melancholia.”
Flaherty reconciles the idea of joy with depression; “the virtue of joy is different from the feeling of joy.” Joy is more than just an emotion; it is knowledge that God deeply loves us. We may struggle with thoughts of despair, but amidst the suffering, we can find solace because God became a man and endured suffering to save us from evil. We may not feel the joy of God presently, but if we are faithful to him, we will one day enter the place where there is perfect joy and no more sorrow.
Another part of the book that really spoke to me was the part on the shepherds. The author contrasts their vigilance with other Biblical figures that fell asleep on the job, Samson, Saul’s Guards, and the Apostles in the Garden. The shepherds were alert and faithful in guarding their sheep. This allowed them to hear God’s message from the angels and then act upon it.
So how are you going to make this your best Advent yet? How can you slow down your life to prepare the way for Christ? Reading Jesus is the Gift, is a wonderful way to enter into the true spirit of Advent and Christmas. May you realize what a great gift Jesus is to the world, and joyfully proclaim that message to those whom you meet.
Bob Waruszewski is a cradle Catholic from Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from St. Vincent College with a bachelor’s degree in both mathematics and economics. Currently he works in the regulatory department for a natural gas distribution company in the Steel City and is enjoying life as a married man. He is a proud father, and he enjoys playing sports, hiking and reading a good book. His favorite saint is St. Joseph.
This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at The Catholic Gentleman.