Advent is a time of careful preparation as we welcome God in the person of Jesus Christ. Metaphors of preparation include - building a bridge; preparing the soil; laying the groundwork. The model of preparation that I propose is based loosely on the spiritual preparation we make in uniting ourselves with Jesus in Holy Communion.
Firstly, we make an act of faith in the goodness of the divine initiative of God. God always takes the first step in coming towards us. Although we deserve punishment for our sinfulness, God does not approach us as a vindictive judge but as a divine physician - to heal us from the wounds of sin. Our act of faith possesses our hearts with eagerness as we welcome the God of mercy and compassion. Our eagerness is characterised by an absence of fear since God who is love, dispels all fear.
Secondly, we make an act of contrition. The familiar act of contrition posits that we are sorry for having sinned against God because He is so good. This is the proper motive for contrition. Other motives such as fear of punishment or eternal separation are not invalid, but they do not reflect accurately the love of God which inspires our contrite hearts. The communion that God desires to have with us is a communion of love. A handy way of assessing our contrition is to look at the ways in which we have disobeyed the commandments of God. Do I love God with all my heart and soul? Have I shown love and respect to the most important people in my life? Do I live with my neighbour in peace and truth? Do I respect the beauty of sexuality as a gift for the building up of the family? Like the psalmist, we desire to climb the mountain of the Lord and stand in his holy presence.
God accepts our act of contrition and purifies our hearts and our hands that we might receive him worthily.
Thirdly, we make an act of love. In order to receive Love into my heart, I resolve to act in love. We listen to and act upon the words of the Baptist. The signs of conversion must be seen in actions which manifest our decision to turn to the Lord. We acknowledge that it is useless to profess our love for God if we do not love our neighbour. We share our food, our clothing, our time and talents. When we exercise charity towards our neighbour, we are ministering to Christ himself. This is a cause of great joy for us. When we recognise that it is Christ to whom we are ministering, we understand that the poor, the hungry and the suffering are not objects of our pity but rather are instruments effecting our own evangelisation.
Through faith we prepare the soil of our hearts to receive God. By contrition we build a bridge for God. In love we lay the foundation for God's kingdom to be established.