It’s time to make our way toward Bethlehem.
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“Stay awake! … be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come”
— from Luke 24:37-44, Gospel for the 1st Sunday of Advent Year A
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Imagine what that was like for the magi, leaving on their long journey, following a star that promised a king. They hoped in that promise and acted in faith: not knowing where they would end up or how far they had to go.
In that sense, their journey echoes the journey of Abraham and Sarah two thousand years earlier. Leave everything and go to the land that I will show you, God said. At the end was untold blessing, including the king those wise men would search to find.
Christmas wraps up all the hopes and expectations of salvation history, not just from the time of Abraham but from the time of creation — and presents them to us in a mother and child in the little town of Bethlehem.
We’re on a similar journey today: knowing that Jesus has been born, but awaiting his coming again as King. One way to enter into the spirit of expectation and recall the real meaning of Christmas is to travel through Scripture following the “Jesse Tree” — named for Isaiah’s prophecy that the Messiah would come like “shoot from the stump of Jesse,” father of King David (Isa 11:1). This Advent tradition offers daily readings that depict the ancestors of Jesus or stories that show how all the Old Testament points to Christ.
Try one of these two Advent reading plans
Here are two such reading plans to choose from.
- The first is a traditional “Jesse Tree.” Starting with Creation, it traces not only the lineage of Jesus from Jesse, but also the history of salvation as it points to his coming.
- The second is one I created to trace the fulfillment of God’s curse on the devil and promise to Eve after the Fall, that the woman and her “seed” will bruise the head of the serpent (see Gen 3:14-15). Subsequent generations of mothers and sons in salvation history give hints of the one who is to come, born of a woman, to defeat the devil … until the prophecy is fulfilled in Mary and Jesus.
Of course, you can also follow the readings the Church gives us each day. They’ve been carefully chosen to help prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. Find them on the USCCB website or read the following selected list from CatholicOnline of one reading a day that relates to Advent themes of waiting, preparation, light, and the coming Messiah.
Blessings on you as you come into the Word this Advent!
© 2019 Sarah Christmyer