Adapted from St. Kilian Congregation bulletin of Hartford WI
What is Advent all about? It is easily and quickly obscured by the celebration of Christmas, and yet it remains an important time in the church calendar year. In our frantic preparation for Christmas, we often neglect the four-week Advent season even though it has a definite purpose of its own.
Think of it this way: an engaged couple planning their wedding. As the wedding day draws close, their focus on each other gets lost and obscured by the energies and activities of preparing for the wedding. While not necessarily lost time, it becomes a time of lost opportunity for the couple to reflect upon their commitment and to spend quiet time together.
So it is with Advent. Christmas preparations make demands that don't give us time to pray and enjoy the quiet moments of reflection upon the deeper meaning of the birthday of Jesus. Like a couple in the frenzy of detailed wedding planning, we find ourselves checking off our "to do" lists for Christmas : so much to do, so little time! We may even be wishing Christmas were over, and that would be sad. Something of importance would be lost.
Advent is similar to a four-week retreat. Of course we can't say to our family and friends, "Sorry! I'm on a four-week retreat right now so I can't help you." But at the same time, the demands and expectations of others don't have to rule our lives. We can and perhaps should say "no" to some of the requests/demands of others. It's not a matter of disappointing people; it's more a matter of focusing our mental and physical energies on things that are of more enduring value in our lives, things that often get overlooked by our busyness.
Do you notice on December 26th the many trees already on the curb waiting to be hauled away? Christmas music is no longer played. Rather than a reflective, quiet Advent leading to a joyful Christmas celebration, Advent itself has become a long Christmas Eve, and December 25 becomes for so many the last day of the season rather than the first of the traditional "12 Days of Christmas."
A few things you might do to help Advent return to what it truly is meant to be:
1.Gather in church each Advent Sunday to listen to the Scriptures of the season. Read the Sunday Gospel (printed in the JOS Sunday bulletin) at one of the family meals in your home, and together discuss how it applies to you.
2.Have a family night each week remembering and telling stories of family members who have died : a good way of honoring their lives!
3.Take long, quiet walks, leaving cell phones and electronic stuff behind; after all, centuries of people survived without them.
4.Purchase gifts to help neighbors in need.
MAKE YOUR ADVENT BLESSED!