My Dear Friends:
Advent is finally here! What a blessing that we are able to enter this holy season to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord!
When I was a child, my family had a hard and fast rule that we would not start decorating the house for Christmas until December 1st. As our family grew, that rule changed to start on the First Sunday of Advent. My parents were methodical in making sure that we knew that Jesus was truly the reason for the season. The Advent wreath would adorn our dining room table, and every night we would do our Advent prayers before dinner, and my sister, my brother and I would take turns lighting the candle or candles for that week. With the lighting of each candle we would say, “Jesus is the light of the world.” Even as children, we knew that the brighter the Advent wreath got, the closer we were getting to Christmas.
This year when the calendar turned to November, I felt a great longing for Advent. I’ve always been very careful of not starting my Advent prayers or decorating anything until this blessed season arrives. Yet, I was reminded earlier this month of a retired bishop whom I visited about 20 years ago. It was late October, and, he already had his Christmas tree up. I thought it was a bit too early back then, but this year in particular, I thought of him and really wanted to start celebrating this season early. Mainly because Advent is so short this year. Just three weeks! So yes, I want to celebrate Christmas big because our broken world so desperately needs it. I can’t help but think of the old Johnny Mathis song: “We Need a Little Christmas.” Two of the verses go like this: “For we need a little Christmas, right this very minute, Candles in the window, carols at the spinet…For we need a little music, need a little laughter, Need a little singing ringing through the rafter…We need a little Christmas now!”
Yes, we all need a little Christmas to brighten up the world and our lives, but it all starts with the wreath that starts off in darkness and ends up with a magnificent light. This is such a wondrous season of grace that sometimes gets rushed between the mad dash from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas Eve. Advent is not as deliberate as the 40+ days of Lent, but if we savor each Advent day as an opportunity to focus on the Christ Child, we know that our hearts will burst with joy when we sing the Gloria with the angels on Christmas Day.
Let’s do Advent and Christmas with more joy this year thinking back on the wonder we experienced as children. Obviously, we begin Advent at Mass this weekend, but there is so much we can do at home in our private prayer time, and obviously prepare ourselves for a good Advent confession.
“There is so much to do,” you might think to yourself as this blessed season begins, but it all begins by slowing down with silence and prayer to take advantage of every single day of Advent. We thank God for the joy of the season, and in the stillness of our hearts we sing the ancient hymn: “O come, O come, Emmanuel!”
God bless you all,