What gift are you longing for this Christmas?
Advent is the time we wait in hopeful expectation.
Theologically speaking, it is the time of darkness before the dawn.
With the birth of Christ comes Something New. Actually, with the birth of Christ everything changes. “Emmanuel, God with us” ushers in a whole new era.
This Baby-- showers us with gifts!
“What are they?” you might ask.
In the next few blogs we will explore three fantastic gifts that the Babe in the Manger bestows upon mankind. And what you think you are longing for…will be found nestled down in the straw where wise men (and women) still seek Him because with Him comes the best life has to offer.
I recently spoke on this at a women’s Advent retreat in NOLA and in DC as well--you can listen to the talk here.
C. S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory:
“ What would it be to taste at the fountainhead --that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.”
And Holy Scripture states: “God has set eternity in the hearts of men...” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
God is the the Fountainhead and Source of life, love and all things eternally good and our hearts long for this, they were made for this. Only drinking from Him will truly satisfy all of our deepest desires. Everything on this planet is just a type and shadow, a whisper of eternity-- even the things that bring us the most pleasure.
The Babe in the Manger comes to connect us to this Source. He is the true Reality come down from heaven and the One who links us to all for which we long. He did not come to set up an earthly kingdom, as some had hoped. No, He came to give us an “abundant life” (John 10:10), a heavenly life, through the forging of relationships.
The first and most important relationship He enables us to establish is the one with God the Father and the second is a loving relationship with our “neighbor” (Matthew 22:37-38).
Sadly, some mistakenly think they are “just fine, thank you!” as long as they have the second relationship handled-- “somebody to love”, as we can all see how good relationships with others bring happiness.
But did you know that even more important than being “happy” in this life is being set free and forgiven?
Forgiveness and a relationship with God bring with them true freedom and with that comes all that we truly long for.
Here is the first truth, one of three spectacular gifts that the birth of Christ ushers in:
1. With Christ’s birth comes the ability to receive freedom from GUILT.
“Why do we feel guilt?”
Unfortunately, because we are all guilty! (“All have sinned and are deprived of the Glory of God.” Romans 3:23). And only a relationship with God established through the birth and salvific death of Jesus Christ, His Son, can restore us to this loving, Fatherly, guilt-free, relationship with God.
Jesus paid the penalty for our “sin” (an archery term meaning “missing the bullseye”) so that we are now able to have access to God the Father. With this payment for our sin comes true freedom and restoration to the Source of all Love.
Jesus was born so that our slates could be wiped clean. As Catholics we believe this happens at our baptism, BUT (thanks be to God!) also each and every time we go to Confession--ahh! FREEDOM FROM GUILT! What a relief!
“How does this happen?”
It happens because it is Christ Himself speaking through the lips of the priest, forgiving us and setting us free! And not only this-- as crazy as it sounds, with this proclamation of forgiveness comes a POWER BOOST of grace from the Holy Spirit that enables us to DO better, to BE better, and to LIVE better lives.* What an incredible gift! We give God our sin and He gives us HIMSELF! In POWER!
Jesus was born to take away our sins and to give us the ability to live our best life now through the grace of His Holy Spirit! So let Him!
This week’s challenge: Go to confession and because of the birth of Christ and the gift of restoration and grace that He brings, enjoy a squeaky clean, powerful start in 2018!
And come back next week to find out the second amazing gift that the birth of Christ offers to us.
“...let Israel hope in the LORD, For with the LORD is mercy, with him is plenteous redemption...” Psalm 130:7.
Thank You for leaving heaven and coming to earth as a baby, Someone I am able to relate to in Your weakness and vulnerability. I, too, feel weak and helpless, and yet You did not come to leave me like this. You came to set me free and give me Your power in order to live an amazing life! I pray that I will embrace all that You have come to do in my life, firstly by being connected to You, loving Lord, through the forgiveness of my sins. Please give me the grace to take full advantage of the gifts You have come to give me, confession and restoration in power, being just one of them. Thank You again for doing this, let it not go to waste on me. Let me experience heaven on earth and my life be a testimony of your love as I place all of my trust in You, my beautiful Savior.
I ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
* St. Augustine declares: “For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.” Also, "God is so good that in his hand, even evil brings about good..."
In addition, St. Ambrose writes: “We who have sinned more have gained more, because your grace makes us more blessed than our absence of fault does.” (Commentary on Ps 37, 47).
And last but not least! Fr. John Pietropaoli states: “In confession, with sorrow in our hearts, we place our evil into the hand of God. He makes all things new and turns our shame and sorrow into joy.”