Advent: Already? Or all ready?
Already?? The stores start preparing for the "holiday" shopping rush as they are clearing out the Halloween décor. Radio stations convert to all "holiday" music as we get close to Thanksgiving. The idea is to start decorating, celebrating and, most importantly, spending as soon as possible in anticipation of Christmas. And, by Christmas day, everyone has had enough and cannot wait to "put it away" and turn off the Christmas music. We have lost the meaning of Advent and the joys of Christmas!
Advent is a preparatory season, turning our hearts and minds to reflect upon the birth of Our Lord, but also to anticipate the promised Second Coming of Christ in glory. The liturgical color of violet is used because of the expectant and moderately penitential attitude of the season. The Church calls for moderation during Advent. The Gloria is not sung or said, and songs of anticipation are sung until Christmas, when the singing of Christmas hymns begins. Advent is the time to prepare our souls to receive Him. We are exhorted to remain awake, in anticipation of the Second Coming. It is a good time to reflect on how we can become more charitable and less self centered. It is encouraged that we make a good confession as part of our Advent observance. In centuries past, in some places, a fast was observed. This is still done in the Eastern Church.
Advent is the season which encompasses the four Sundays leading to Christmas and begins the liturgical year. It starts on the Sunday which is closest to the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30. There are a number of private devotions for Advent, helping to set the time apart and direct our thoughts towards our salvation in Christ. For children especially, an Advent calendar with short biblical verses in little windows opened each day can be a simple reminder of the season. Some families have an Advent wreath at home. Three purple candles represent the first, second and fourth weeks, while a pink candle is lit for the third week to remind us to rejoice in Jesus' death and resurrection, which have already won the battle! Advent is a wonderful time to participate in daily Mass, where the Church has organized the readings precisely for advancing along the journey towards Christmas. For those who cannot attend Mass, the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours is a good way to focus on Advent as a time of preparation. There are numerous books of mediations that can be used privately also.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord; prepare yourself and your family for Him, so that He finds a worthy dwelling in you. He wants an authentic encounter with you! He wants you to recognize that He came to be one of us, to be one with us. Our Lord wants you to recognize Him in every person you meet. He wants you to recognize your need for Him; without Him we are nothing. Open your heart to Him, invite Him in and let Him live in you. When Christmas comes, it is time to celebrate and rejoice. Recognize and receive the Divine Infant into your hearts and lives. Welcome the Babe! He has come to save YOU! Be ready to take that next right step; be a bright sign of hope in a world going dark.
The Christmas season runs from the vigil on Christmas Eve until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, on the Sunday following the Epiphany. That is the time to fully enter into the celebration of Christmas, playing the beautiful Christmas hymns, enjoying the manger scene and the Christmas tree, eating the traditional sweet and savory treats of Christmas, and reveling in family and friendships. Do not let the secular frenzy take away the true joys of the season: a purified soul, a ready heart and a joy filled home. Make yourselves all ready!