Published December 1, 2005
It came to pass last Saturday evening with much less fanfare and attention than the start of the shopping season received nationally only the day before. Few people even noticed its beginning. Advent more often than not begins quietly with a simple change of color of vestments, with the first display and lighting of the Advent wreath and with the replacement of the Ordo (the liturgical calendar) in the sacristy.
Advent imparts a gentle opening. Yet without these serene four weeks of preparation, even the Church herself might be at the very mercy of the highly commercialized frenzy of shopping, decorating, cooking and festive events that we now all too frequently call the holiday season. I hate that term!
Advent is a season for the heart and soul. It is the buffer that keeps the Christian spirit from rushing headlong into the events of Salvation that are all too often forgotten in the rush of this time of year. Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, promised in the Old Testament through the Prophets and fulfilled in the New Testament and accompanied by the longing of the events of the history of Salvation.
God took His own “sweet time” in sending us the One who would save us from ourselves—from our selfishness and hatred, from our greed and fears, from our pettiness and hard-heartedness. We should not rush into the Mystery of Christ’s Birth without a sense of yearning and hope. That is what Advent does for the heart of the Church. It allows us to enjoy longing and anticipation—not restlessness and melancholy.
Our cherished little ones will soon grow so anxious during this season urged on by commercials and advertising promotions that by Christmas Eve parents will literally chuckle at their level of animation and exhilaration.
The Church savors Advent like a fine wine that grows more flavorful and robust with each sip. We need Advent to remember that God is in charge of Salvation and not Macy’s, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club or Bloomingdale’s.
The greatest Gift that we all need to anticipate will come not wrapped in fancy paper, but in swaddling.
The newspapers this past week were filled with ads and sales—and that is to be expected. Last Friday was called “Black Friday” in hopes that the merchants will enjoy a prosperous season—and I pray that they do!
Folks lined up for hours before the opening of the shopping season. Parades from New York to Los Angeles began the official “holiday season.”
And quietly the Church began a new liturgical year last Saturday at sunset—changing green for purple while detecting the obvious shadows of the season. We began the time of watching and waiting for the One who gives Light, Hope and Joy, not only to this time of year, but to every day of our lives.
Enjoy this season that leads to our Redeemer! And please don’t ever call it the holiday season because there is something far more important that we await than a nice package wrapped in beautiful paper at the end! There are more wondrous moments that we hope for than the many Christmas parties that will soon flourish. Advent prepares all of us for an eternity made secure in Christ Jesus—the Gift that keeps on giving – forever!