The time of Advent is such a beautiful season. It is beautiful and profound, but not because of the delicious food, pretty decorations, cheerful music, and gift-giving. Instead, it is lovely because it is oriented toward one person, one man, Christ. Often, people, including myself, look at Advent as a preparation for a birth, but this does not fully get to the heart of Advent. It is a time for preparation, not merely for the birth of Christ, but for Christ Himself. As people living over two thousand years after the first Advent, Christ has already been born, so we must prepare for Christ differently.
As Christians, we know that someday Christ will return. I often find myself not recognizing the significance of that statement. Too often do we look at the broken and fallen world we live in with so much despair. Our lives don’t turn out how we expect them to, or tragedies begin to make us wonder what good there is to hope for. This is why Advent and eventually Christmas are so important. They remind us of the hope that we have in Christ. Someday Christ will come again, and that is cause for much joy and hope. The reality of Christ in our lives is a gift that no other person can give and one that we must prepare for. A gift such as this can seem quite daunting, and it can be a temptation to look at where we are and where we think we should be and realize that we are unworthy of such a gift. And we’d be right. However, we also forget who is with us. Christ is just as much with us in preparation as he is the ultimate goal. Stated more clearly - life is neither a destination nor a journey, but a pilgrimage where God is the destination and the One walking with us.
To continue on this pilgrimage, we must be completely open to God because without the journey or the destination - we are lost. So how do we remain entirely open to God? Thankfully, we have wonderful examples of what it looks like to be completely open to God, and they are the people who were there at the first Advent; Namely Mary and Joseph. During my reflection on the holy family this Advent season, I have realized the importance of Mary and Joseph as individuals and the importance of their relationship with each other.
From an early age, Mary had made a promise to God to remain a virgin, and you could imagine that once she was to bear a child, she probably received a judgment from the people that she knew. This couldn’t have been very easy to deal with, and on top of it, because of her significance in bearing the Son of God, she probably experienced powerful temptations from the devil. However, what makes Mary so different is that she never gave in to any of the temptations. Mary remained pure in that nothing foreign to God ever influenced her. Even when things were uncertain, or if she was unsure what would happen, she remained open to God in all aspects. In Joseph’s love for Mary, he was there to help ensure that Mary felt safe. He needed to protect her purity. In doing so, Joseph was there to help her listen to God and not any of the judgment or temptation that would come from the world. He remained consistent in his openness to God so that she would continue to be safe and secure, knowing that his actions were orient toward God alone.
Joseph likely experienced a lot of uncertainty when he found out that Mary would bear a child, but he remained open to God regardless of that uncertainty. Through all of the difficulties that the holy family faced regarding the birth of Christ, Joseph had to remain strong and courageous, but above all, he had to be open to God. Joseph was going to be the model of authentic masculinity for Christ Himself. This would require a continued openness to God. Like Mary, Joseph anticipated facing temptation, but Joseph was a virtuous and prayerful man. There is a reason he was chosen to raise the Son of God. In Mary’s love for Joseph, she helped him in remaining open to God. Because of her purity, she would have been able to teach Joseph how to properly listen to God and give him the space to listen. Because of Joseph’s consistency, she was able to trust that his motives were always toward God, which meant that she would allow him the space to listen to God’s will. This can be seen prominently when Joseph was considering divorcing her quietly. Mary let the events to unfold as it gave Joseph space to eventually hear from God what he should do.
In this relationship between Mary and Joseph, we see how too people are supposed to love each other. By always willing the good of one another, Mary and Joseph were able to help and strengthen each other but always oriented toward openness to God. They wonderfully demonstrate how we are meant to live with Christ at the center of our lives and the center of our relationships with other people. Whether we are called to marriage, religious life, or Holy Orders, God has given us all the desire for communion with others, and Mary and Joseph show us how we can live out that communion, together with Christ. As we finish up Advent and celebrate Christmas, we remember the reason for it all: Christ. He is a light to the world that gives hope and joy, and with the help of the Holy Family, we can prepare for and become closer to Him.