The time of expectation has come and we once again wait in joyful expectation for the coming of our Savior.
I. The Prosperous Must Show Forth Their Thankfulness to God, by Liberality to the Poor and Needy
The transcendent power of God’s grace, dearly beloved, is indeed daily effecting in Christian hearts the transference of our every desire from earthly to heavenly things. But this present life also is passed through the Creator’s aid and sustained by His providence, because He who promises things eternal is also the Supplier of things temporal. As therefore we ought to give God thanks for the hope of future happiness towards which we run by faith, because He raises us up to a perception of the happiness in store for us, so for those things also which we receive in the course of every year, God should be honoured and praised, who having from the beginning given fertility to the earth and laid down laws of bearing fruit for every germ and seed, will never forsake his own decrees but will as Creator ever continue His kind administration of the things that He has made. Whatever therefore the cornfields, the vineyards and the olive groves have borne for man’s purposes, all this God in His bounteous goodness has produced: for under the varying condition of the elements He has mercifully aided the uncertain toils of the husbandmen so that wind, and rain, cold and heat, day and night might serve our needs. For men’s methods would not have sufficed to give effect to their works, had not God given the increase to their wonted plantings and waterings. And hence it is but godly and just that we too should help others with that which the Heavenly Father has mercifully bestowed on us. For there are full many, who have no fields, no vineyards, no olive-groves, whose wants we must provide out of the store which God has given, that they too with us may bless God for the richness of the earth and rejoice at its possessors having received things which they have shared also with the poor and the stranger. That garner is blessed and most worthy that all fruits should increase manifold in it, from which the hunger of the needy and the weak is satisfied from which the wants of the stranger are relieved, from which the desire of the sick is gratified. For these men God has in His justice permitted to be afflicted with divers troubles, that He might both crown the wretched for their patience and the merciful for their loving-kindness.
It is important to recall during our holiday preparation that it is God Who gives the increase. However much we work for the blessings we have receive, they are blessings, freely given and received. Let us be mindful of God’s generosity to us that we may in turn be generous to one another.
II. Almsgiving and Fasting are the Most Essential Aids to Prayer
And while all seasons are opportune for this duty, beloved, yet this present season is specially suitable and appropriate, at which our holy fathers, being Divinely inspired, sanctioned the Fast of the tenth month, that when all the ingathering of the crops was complete, we might dedicate to God our reasonable service of abstinence, and each might remember so to use his abundance as to be more abstinent in himself and more open-handed towards the poor. For forgiveness of sins is most efficaciously prayed for with almsgiving and fasting, and supplications that are winged by such aids mount swiftly to God’s ears: since as it is written, “the merciful man doeth good to his own soul,” and nothing is so much a man’s own as that which he spends on his neighbour. For that part of his material possessions with which he ministers to the needy, is transformed into eternal riches, and such wealth is begotten of this bountifulness as can never be diminished or in any way destroyed, for “blessed are the merciful, for God shall have mercy on them,” and He Himself shall be their chief Reward, who is the Model of His own command.
And in this season of gluttonous delight, it is easy to forget that Advent is a penitential season, meant to hurt a bit like Lent. Sacrifice is not easy, and can take many forms. Perhaps it means avoiding a dessert at a holiday party. Perhaps it means giving more to your Church or a charity. Or perhaps it means remaining faithful to prayer and work. Whatever the cross you have, raise it daily in the anticipation of Christ’s birth, when all your burdens will be borne by a baby in a manger. For He Who was born precisely so He could die will take the burden from your shoulders, give you a yoke that is easy to bear, and bring peace to your heart.