Advent prepares us to let go of our powerseeking ways.
Advent is a season of preparation, prayer, and discernment. For me, it is both my favorite liturgical season and the most challenging. The people of God are called to be watchful and to prepare the way of the Lord. And yet in the chaos of contemporary society, the one thing we all seem to lack during Advent is time. Culturally, we move from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas, sacrificing Advent along the way. Why are we in such a rush to Christmas? Can we truly have Christmas without Advent?
Help children find the holy in all parts of the holiday season.
It is hard for a baby in a manger to compete with eight reindeer and Santa holding a huge pack of gifts. The anticipatory pause of Advent—quiet and dark blue—has a difficult time holding a candle to the glitter and colorful lights of a city’s exuberant holiday decorations. But what if we don’t need to compete? What if we can help our children find the holy in all parts of the holiday season?
“The time for relying on structures has disappeared.”
“From now on, everyone stands on his own feet. . . . The time for relying on structures has disappeared. They are good and they should help us, and we should do the best we can with them. But they may be taken away, and if everything is taken away, what do you do next?”
Fifty years since Thomas Merton died, and during this year, as tumultuous and violent as any since he died, we are face to face with the reality that Merton set before us only moments before he disappeared from view: “The time for relying on structures has disappeared.”
Scripture is full of stories of others who wait with the same expectant hush we experience in the four weeks before Christmas.
As a kid the few days before Christmas were a rush of activity. My parents always waited until then to get our tree. My brothers and sisters would say that my parents waited because of the bargains, but I believe they were celebrating Advent.
Slow down and be present to the Christmas joy that surrounds you.
You won’t hear Christmas carols in church during the Advent season, but you will hear them everywhere else. How do we keep Advent a time of quiet preparation in the midst of a world that started singing “Joy to the World” the day after Thanksgiving?
One answer is to pull out your own Advent from the Christmas pieces that surround you. Slow down and be present to what you are hearing and allow the truth in the messages to ready your soul and lead you to find your family’s Advent in the midst of this busy season.
Baby Jesus isn’t just a cuddly cute bundle of life.
Advent is a wonderful season because it’s all about waiting for a baby. Who doesn’t love babies? Religion is sweet when it concerns a tiny bundle of life we can hold in our arms and upon whom the very hope of the world depends. More people would sign up for church membership if it were all as lovely and cuddly and charming as this.
But be forewarned: The baby is a thief.
This year, take the focus off presents and put it on serving God’s family.
If your kids are anything like mine, Advent has less to do with preparing for the arrival of baby Jesus and more to do with the studied preparation of Christmas lists. In an effort to combat an increasingly present-hungry holiday focus, a few years ago we started a Jesse Tree. Every morning, we added a new ornament to our Jesse Tree and read that day’s Bible story, which took us from creation to the birth of Christ.
From the archives: Take time this year to observe Advent among the worry, hurry, and frantic activity of the holidays.
In the middle of June, on a bright, hot, green, snow-is-the-furthest-thing-from-my-mind day, my middle daughter looked across the breakfast table and asked, “Mommy, when is it going to be Advent?”
She was quite serious; Easter and Pentecost seemed a long time away. Surely it was about time Advent rolled around again. Or at least so she hoped. She was, to say the least, disappointed when I explained she had an entire summer and fall to wait before Advent peered over the horizon.
The answer may be more complicated than you thought.
The easy answer to that question is, we, the church, did. The feasts and seasons of the liturgical year all developed from the church’s desire to remember, celebrate, and live the great mysteries of our faith.
The answer gets more complicated when we realize that these seasons originated centuries ago and developed independently in different places, spreading, combining, and sometimes dying out.
Before we can talk about Advent, we have to talk about Christmas, obviously, and, less obviously, Epiphany.
When admittance to the nativity scene is free and open to the public, Bethlehem can get a little crowded—but the creche is enriched because of it.
I don’t have pictures of myself sitting terrified on Santa’s lap. Despite his slow but certain infiltration into the traditional Spanish Christmas, he has never been able to dethrone the Wise Men who, flanked by pages, still sit in department stores and city squares to listen to children whose wishes they will fulfill the day after their parades on January 6.
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