Even within the realm of spiritual preparation there can be different points of emphases.
We are just eight days away from Christmas. Preparations of all kinds are under way to have a blast when the day at last arrives. The readers of this column, however, have always been keen to pay greater attention to the spiritual aspect of life, especially of great festivals like Christmas.
Even within the realm of spiritual preparation there can be different points of emphases. Thus some may take the “waiting” aspect of the Baby Jesus to be born. Others may pay attention to the “repentance” of one’s sins as demanded by John the Baptist in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Some others may prefer the theme of the third Sunday of Advent which speaks of the “joyful expectation” of Jesus’ birth. Generally, however, people focus on spiritual preparation to “welcome” Jesus into our world. They meditate on “how” one could make oneself spiritually worthy to “receive” the saviour into their own lives.
Among the different reflections focusing on specific points as preparations to welcome Jesus, I came across an inspiring reflection by Theodora Hawksley in a British Catholic weekly, the Tablet. Using the verse, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God”, from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, she brings in a totally refreshing thought to meditate upon.
While most of us focus on spiritual preparation to welcome Jesus and by extension welcome others, she evokes a complete turnaround, persuading us to focus on, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you”. She suggests that rather than focusing on the preparations to welcome Christ, let us concentrate on how Christ has welcomed you. Hence, it is not we who welcome Christ but He it is who welcomes us.
Hawksley then goes on to point out the difference: “Preparing to welcome others may send us into a flurry of anxious activity, but in some sense we retain the power. We are welcoming others into our space, and we want to be good hosts, at ease, generous and polished. Being welcomed, on the other hand, puts us on the other foot: we are entering someone else’s space, and we adapt ourselves to them,” and, “Is this the kind of place where I take my shoes off?”
She then concludes, “Advent isn’t so much about welcoming Christ into our mid wintery world, and striving to be gracious hosts. It’s more about Christ welcoming us, which means learning how to enter his space, and be transformed by the presence of vulnerability”.
How difficult sometimes it is for us to shift the attention from ourselves to Jesus or to others? Can we for the next six days focus solely on the welcome that Jesus offers us, and the rest of the world?