Advent is a season of hope, a hope founded on what God can do, because of what He has already done. Rom. 15:4 "Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
How does the history of the Old Testament gives us hope? Certainly not by the sinfulness of the people of God. However, their maintaining of their faith in God is strong. Most importantly, though, our hope is founded on this fact that we find in the story of the people of Israel: God has not abandoned them. He loved them even while they were sinners, and eventually, as we celebrate in just over two weeks, He came to them, loved them unto death, and restored those who receive Him to perfect communion.
That is our Hope, God's infinite love. And, as John the Baptist reminds us, (as even Christ Himself says in His first words in the Gospel of Mark), the hope we have should demand within us a change. "Repent! Turn away from sin! for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" For Christians, repentance is the first thing and the last thing we are called to: within this one call is contained all the other demands of the Gospel.
We spend a lot of time working on the right gifts for people. This year I drew my brother's name for the exchange. When I told my sister, who has had him for the last two years, she looked at me with the sober eyes of a traumatic flashback and said shortly, "good luck." He is infamously difficult to purchase for because he knows what he likes and besides those things, not much else matters. So what did I do? I went out and bought the first thing I could find. I hope it works!
But seriously, we spend lots of time and energy on these gifts because they are important. They are concrete signs of our love. But we are tempted to get things out of priority and forget the spiritual preparation that is absolutely necessary to make this season truly beautiful and really meaningful in the long run. This holiday season exists because of God, because of the joy we have in Jesus. As Pope Francis said in his recently-released exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, "Joy... always endures, even as a flicker of light, born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved." why don't we spend time preparing for the gift we can give Jesus this Christmas? What does He want more than repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand? What greater gift can we give than to truly turn our hearts to Him, to satisfy the longing of his Sacred Heart, pierced and bleeding out of love for us. He wants to be loved.
Indeed, let us prepare the way for the Savior to enter into our hearts. Let us clear the humble stable of our souls for Him to find a place ready for Him, small but full of warmth and love. Let us wrap up the gift of true conversion and repentance, the gift of daily prayer, the gift of weekly attendance at Mass and regular confession. This alone is the gift for which He truly longs, for which we truly long.