By Elizabeth Starr
For The Catholic Messenger
As we finish up the last of our Thanksgiving meal, people hurry to get out their trees, start decorating, get a jump on Christmas shopping by trampling over others outside stores or by sitting in their pajamas at home and ordering online. Yes, people are rushing toward Christmas time again.
Every college student looks forward to this time of year because it means time at home, a break from school and a chance to relax. However, the weeks before Christmas break are filled with stress, assignments, final exams, crying and more stress. As I have grown older, I’ve found that I am controlled by my to-do list. The next event at work, the next exam or assignment due or whatever I have in my planner all take precedence and, consequently, faith goes to the bottom of the list. When asked what I’m doing to prepare for Advent, I realize that I completely forgot about Advent.
Yes, even Advent can get clouded by busy schedules and the last-minute tasks we all must finish before we can finally start preparing for Christmas. Everything in my life always seems to creep its way in and seems more important than the preparation for Christ’s birth and the remembrance of our faith.
I know that Advent is supposed to be a time of reflection and renewal. It is a time to take a look at our lives and reevaluate what is important. But I also anticipate Christmas as a time away from work and school to be with family and friends. It’s a time to enjoy gifts, food, decorations, movies and many other traditions that make the holiday special, but can also distract from its true meaning.
Because we are human and distracted, we allow things in our lives and in our world to fill our attention. This is why we need constant reminders in our lives of God’s grace, mercy and unconditional love. This is why every year we should spend some time in Advent preparing for the coming of Christ so that we are ready to celebrate the wonder of his birth at Christmas. This Advent, I am planning to take time out of my day to reflect on my relationship with Christ, talk to others about how we can bring Christ more into the holiday, and ask God to work through me to realign my faith in my life.
In Mark 13:24-32, Jesus tells us in the Gospel of the signs in the Book of Revelation. “Learn a lesson from the fig tree,” he says. “When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near.”
This year, we need to remember the lesson of the fig tree. We need to be aware and ever vigilant. Life is busy, and it is always getting busier, which is why we need to allow time for self-reflection and reevaluation. This is the time of year when we not only celebrate the coming of Christ but remember why he came: God loved us so much that he humbled himself to the point of humanity to sacrifice himself in love and save each and every one of us.
(Elizabeth Starr is a student at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and mass communications. Her home parish is Our Lady of Lourdes in Bettendorf.)