Walk in the Light of the Lord
The month of December often passes with a lot of decorating, gift shopping, cooking, and parties. None of these are bad – it is wonderful to spend time with family and express love for them like this – but many people experience it as a frantic rush that makes the arrival of Christmas feel more like a relief than a celebration of God’s boundless love for me.
In the first reading, we hear “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths” (Isaiah 2:3). Climbing the mountain of the Lord’s house (i.e. the temple in Jerusalem) was an annual event for many of the solemn feasts in ancient Judaism. For those who didn’t live in Jerusalem, it meant preparing for a journey, setting out on foot for however many days it took to reach the city, and climbing the steep roads that led to the mountaintop on which Jerusalem is built. As they neared the city, they would sing the Psalms of Ascents (Pss 120-134) that speak of God’s goodness to David, his household, the royal city of Jerusalem, and all the people of Israel, especially focused on praising God in the temple. The people of Israel loved the temple! It was a beautiful and magnificent sign of God’s presence with his people, but also the place that Israel’s redemption by God was celebrated and proclaimed in the reading of the Law. By this proclamation and reliving of their sacred history, they saw God himself “instruct us in his ways” so as to “walk in his paths” and learn to live a life pleasing to God.
That is a wonderful approach to the season of Advent: setting out on a journey toward the celebration of God’s saving love. As you prepare for celebrations with food and gifts, consider how spiritual practices can take you on a spiritual journey. How can you prepare your heart to be more open to God this Advent?
Some ideas: read and meditate on one of the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) daily; make a good confession at the Advent parish penance service (December 10, 10 AM) or regular confessions (Saturdays, 2 PM); extend an olive branch to estranged family members; check on neighbors who may be lonely; attend daily Mass during the eight days before Christmas (December 17-24); pray a daily Rosary as a family; read a daily meditation during Advent.
Spiritual preparation for a significant celebration of our faith can help reshape the experience. If December has been hectic or stressful in the past, consider doing something new that will help you prepare for Christmas, when we celebrate the dawning of our salvation that moves us to walk in the light of the Lord.