Today is the Sunday of Scar. Scar is, as of course you well know, the brother of Mufasa, the king of the jungle, in The Lion King. This Sunday matches in a certain sense the very song that Scar is most famous for: Be Prepared. And as those who know the film know, Mufasa perishes because he is not prepared for Scar.
The Season of Advent is the privileged time for us to do that very thing: to prepare or perish. Because it is for the coming of our Saviour that we are to prepare. This preparation occurs on three levels:
to prepare [ourselves to worthily] celebrate the anniversary of the Lord’s coming into the world as the incarnate God of love,
thus to make [our] souls fitting abodes for the Redeemer coming in Holy Communion and through grace, and
thereby to make [ourselves] ready for His final coming as judge, at death and at the end of the world. (Catholic Encyclopedia)
This last level seems a bit stern compared with the cuteness of the baby Jesus: but this should not surprise us, as the Word of God has been much sterner with us – as Jesus is today: Wake up! He says and make sure you are ready to receive me when I arrive to take you, because I will arrive when you are not expecting me.
But that Jesus is stern, this is not surprising either, as Christianity is about love. And true love, as we know, is not simply being nice: it is also, by its very generosity, rare, and costly, and priceless – just like the gifts of the three kings. This is why their gifts forms a crucial part of the account of the first Christmas. When the wise men gave their gifts, their were underlining to the world that here, in the manger, is the only gift totally worthy of the name – God himself – who loves us so much, that even though he is pure Goodness and Light he even consents to live amongst all the muck and disease of evil that we do – if it will save us from our love of the muck. That is true costly sacrifice: and this is why the naked innocence in the wooden manger calls to mind the naked innocence on the wooden cross.
And so this is what Advent is: to prepare, and make sure we are ready, and have made space in our heart, in our home and in our life for Jesus when he comes. Because only the Baby Jesus, and nothing and nobody else, can fill the manger of our heart with light, joy and goodness. Here are two ways to do this:
One: set up your crib today. Don’t put baby Jesus there (he’s not here yet). And make it the centre of our family life until the 8 January: the place where every night we come to pray, to spend time with the baby Jesus, making him welcome in every part of our life – our family, work, morality, and especially our problems.
And two: go to confession. Because why do you think we have a baby there at Christmas at all? The whole entire point of Christmas is that God comes as a human being so he can save us from the problems of human beings – our sin and the suffering it causes. And he comes as a baby, because – what is there to fear from a baby? Nothing – and so neither is there anything to fear from God – who reaches out to us with a baby’s hand so that we can easily welcome him. Let us pray for this grace today: that we move things out of our life to make the baby Jesus welcome into it.