As Christians, we are very familiar with Advent as a season of waiting, but really, our whole life is, essentially, a long season of waiting. Particularly, we wait for the last Advent—the last coming of Christ at the end of time. Every Advent gives us the opportunity to pause, and very intentionally focus on what we should be doing every day of our lives—preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ. How are we spending our time in waiting?
Let’s talk about the characters of the nativity, since there is really a lifetime’s worth of study and beauty that we can glean from diving deeper into the mystery of the great Christmas narrative through the experiences of the dynamic characters in play – Joseph and Mary, the Infant Jesus, the shepherds, the angels, the magi, and, as a whole, the Holy Family. The characters of the nativity can each teach us lessons for living our own lives in preparation for Christ’s coming this December, as well as for our own death and Christ’s coming at the end of time.
In this article, I will explore some of the lessons for living from the shepherds and the angels.
The Characters of the Nativity and Their Lessons for Living—The Angels: Praise and Evangelization
Angels make appearances all throughout the story of the infancy of Christ. Have you ever thought about why you put an angel on the top of your Christmas tree? As Dr. Scott Hahn has pointed out, many of us put angels on top of our Christmas trees because “Christmas would be inconceivable without angels.”
Angels have much to rejoice about at the birth of Jesus Christ. On that great day when the world saw the incarnation with its very eyes, the angels in heaven rejoiced at the victory of God who came into the world and would open the gates of heaven.
So, the angels did as we ought to do. Their first lesson for living is that of praise.
Worship is ingrained in the angels. Regardless of what else they may be “doing”—visiting Mary to announce that God has chosen her to carry Jesus, coming to Joseph in a dream, watching over us and protecting us as our guardian angels—they are always, always praising God at the same time. Worship is the chief mode of being for the angels, and these heavenly creatures, when they worshipped the God of the universe in the form of a little baby, modeled for us from the moment of Christ’s birth how we, too, should be perpetually praising God.
Do you praise God in all things, at all moments? Do you praise God when things are going well, thanking him and worshiping him for even small blessings of your ordinary day? Do you praise God when you are in the midst of suffering, worshipping Him who never abandons you, even in moments of trial, pain, loneliness, and fear? Angels are always surrounding you, and ready to have you join them in praise and worship of God. This Advent, make a commitment to join the angels in praising God each day for the day’s joys and sufferings.
Angels are messengers of God. That’s what the name “angel” or “angelos” means—messenger. The angels’ ministry is one of evangelization, which should also be a lesson for us in living and in ministry today.
We, as members of the Church, the communion of saints, like the angels, are called to share the Good News. As the Pope Paul VI famously said in his encyclical Evangelli Nuntiandi, evangelization is part of the Church’s deepest identity. How can you better evangelize this Advent? And, like the angels, how can you share this Good News with joy?
Think of someone in your life who may be far from God or have wandered from the Church. Be a loving friend to them, and share the Good News that God loves them and came for them, too. A gentle way to do this may be through sharing the moving and gentle Catholics Come Home Keep Christ in Christmas evangomercial that we have on our CatholicsComeHome.org website. You also may want to consider getting a copy of my book, Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders of Your Family for one of your children, or a neighbor or other relative as an Advent or Christmas gift this year, as a way of sharing the Good News of what God designed family life to be at home.
So, this Advent, like the angels, praise God everyday, and share the Good News with at least one other person in your life.
This article is the second in a series.
Check out Katie Warner’s exciting new book, Head and Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family (Emmaus Road Publishing, August 2015).
Here’s what some other Catholic authors and leaders are saying about Head & Heart: Becoming Spiritual Leaders for Your Family, foreword by Bishop James Conley (Emmaus Road Publishing):
“Read this book now and your children will thank you later.” (Steve Ray)
“Warner has drawn up a map we can read and follow, so that we all arrive at the goal [heaven], together with our families.” (Dr. Scott Hahn)
“Head & Heart will help you take small steps toward building a vibrant Catholic identity in your home.” (Dr. Edward Sri)