Around this time of year we eat turkey, it gets cold, we sing songs (some of them about Baby Jesus and some about snow), Christmas decorations go up, and there are purple candles at church and maybe even in your home. It's time for Advent!
Advent (comes from the Latin “presence, arrival, coming”…this should give you a hint about its meaning)… it is a time for preparation for the celebration of the coming of Christ when he was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger AND a preparation for the second coming of Christ who will come victorious to judge the living and the dead.
Advent is bigger than you thought, right?
Advent is the beginning of the Church year—a time of penance and preparation. It begins 4 Sundays before Christmas. And there is a lot to get ready for both the comings of Christ! Sacrifices and penance help us put our hearts in order and Christ in the center again—since we’ve probably scooted Him to the side since Lent when we last had an intense time of penance and conversion. Its also a time of quiet hope…we are sure that the Savior is coming, that He triumphs in our hearts and in the world and we await Him.
The first weeks of Advent, the readings and prayers of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours have more to do with the second coming of Christ…while from December 17th onward, they begin to prepare more intensely for the birth of Jesus—like a Holy Week for Christmas. Throughout Advent we are constantly referring to the prophets, especially Isaiah and John the Baptist, and their preparation for the Messiah.
Pay attention to the readings at Mass!!! If you can’t get to Mass every day, read and pray at least the readings and prayers of that day’s Mass so that you still receive the nourishment for your soul that the Church gives us every day. You can find them here.
A good idea is to also make little resolutions each day—a sacrifice or good deed—for you to prepare your heart for Jesus’ coming. A fun family tradition is to write down many different resolutions on pieces of paper, draw one every day, and when you have completed it you put it in the manger to prepare it for Baby Jesus. The whole family together can make a very comfy crib for our Savior!
A frequent theme in the liturgy is light. The world lay in darkness until Christ, the light of the world, was made man. The Advent wreath reminds us of this. Each week, we light one candle more and the light grows until we reach Dec. 25th when Light was born. A fun family tradition is to eat dinner (or part of it) with the lights turned off and only your Advent wreath lit…each week there is more light until at Christmas your dining room is flooded with light!
“Dear friends, Advent is the season of the presence and expectation of the eternal. For this very reason, it is in a particular way a period of joy, an interiorized joy that no suffering can diminish. It is joy in the fact that God made himself a Child. This joy, invisibly present within us, encourages us to journey on with confidence. A model and support of this deep joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom we were given the Infant Jesus. May she, a faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace of living this liturgical season alert and hardworking, while we wait. Amen!