Jesus’ stance toward the institution of religion or at least its leaders was often negative. Much more important for him was the interior life of the people—were they living a life connected with Spirit of God? Was their worship a genuine response to God’s presence?
Another way of saying this is that institutional affiliation is no guarantee of being connected interiorly with the Spirit of God, as Jesus would regularly point out. In the gospels Jesus emphasizes doing God’s will as being the essential component of faith. This should caution against the complacency of believing that we have all the correct answers and that the road to salvation is formulaic.
The call to look continually to our personal connection with the Lord (to pray at all times, in the words of Paul) is the call of Advent and Christmas. The call to open our heart more fully to the Lord is the call of Advent and Christmas. The call to repent and change our ways is the call of Advent and Christmas.
The Lord does come into our life in new and wonderful ways, if we have the eyes to see, as the shepherds did on that first Christmas Eve.
“I proclaim to you good news of great joy; today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10-11)