Contrary to what radio stations, stores, and TV would have you believe, it is not Christmas season. Not yet! It’s Advent.
What is Advent? It is a time of waiting, a time of preparation, a time of self-examination. For Catholics, it’s the beginning of a new year – our Liturgy begins anew each First Sunday of Advent, as we await the celebration of the greatest Gift we’ll ever know: God Incarnate, born as a tiny Baby. Poor, helpless, and unnoticed.
Just as it was 2000 years ago, it is today. God comes to us, and we fail to notice.
Oh, sure, we sing Christmas carols, we put up the tree and decorations Thanksgiving afternoon, we buy Christmas presents, we zoom all around looking for good deals and then descend upon our relatives, laden with gifts and goodies, and we pull the tree down on December 26 and toss it on the curb. But if this is all we do, we completely miss everything.
Advent is a quiet time, for reflection. Just as our culture encourages us to re-examine our lives at the start of the calendar year – making improvements where necessary, resolving to be better in one way or another – the Church calls us to do the same now. The readings tell us this. Today’s reading from Isaiah begs God to call us back to Him, to help us repent and be better people, and that when He comes He will find us busy at His work, not our own. Jesus tells us in the Gospel today again: WATCH! It’s so important, He tells us three times: watch!
Instead of rushing about this Advent, singing Christmas carols out-of-season (Christmas begins on December 25 and ends January 6), and worshipping at the altar of the False God of the Good Deal, why not take stock of your life in the next four weeks? Look for the spiritual weaknesses in your life and find ways to shore them up. Instead of letting your children focus on Santa Claus coming, remind them that Jesus is coming. In preparation for that, read the Jesse Tree readings daily. (I’ll have them post here every morning.) Buy an Advent wreath, or even just some purple and pink candles. (I got mine from Wal Mart -big jarred candles that I can leave lit all day long.) Light the candles for dinner, turn off the TV and radio, and just talk about … whatever!
Make Advent about Christ, the One we wait for, and not about rushing yourself towards Christmas. Wait! Watch!
- Catholic Online: Advent and Christmas 2011
- ETWN: Devotionals and Information About Advent
- CatholicMom.com: Plenty of excellent resources, including activity sheets for Mass every Sunday and Holy Day
- Catholic Culture: More activities for the whole family
- New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia: Very in-depth explanations for Advent, fully cross-referenced.
- Want to make your own Jesse Tree? Catholic Culture has instructions here.