The Season of Advent
On Sunday, we begin the season of Advent. It is a season rich in imagery, symbol, music and prayer. Our readings from Scripture are filled with hope and longing as the Israelite people wait and watch for their long-awaited savior. I am always struck that the longing is not passive. The prophets preach “prepare the way of the Lord,” and “make straight a path.” This is not the longing of a lover waiting patiently for the return of the beloved but rather an action-oriented preparation that has us watching, waiting, searching for signs of the Lord’s arrival.
Be Counter-Cultural: Celebrate Advent
Unfortunately, all of this richness is lost on a world that started celebrating Christmas before we finished our Halloween candy and if the GAP has its way—suggesting we “liberate” ourselves from Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa and just party. See. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVMPWlWDvsI.
Give yourself an early Christmas present and celebrate Advent in a meaningful way. Set time aside to make a bigger space in your life for Jesus. The quote in my title comes from a reflection by Thomas Merton on Advent. Just as Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn, Merton suggests that the spiritual preparation of the Advent season is to ask ourselves where in our own lives there is no room for Jesus.
Here our a few suggestions for celebrating Advent:
1. Buy or make an Advent wreath. It can be as simple as a circle of three purple and one pink votives, or it can be greenery, wreaths and bows. Light the candle for daily prayer or during meals
2. Relish the Readings. Read and reflect on the readings for the day, practice the prayer of Lectio Divina to experience their richness and promise. See http://www.valyermo.com/ld-art.html.
3. WAIT for Christmas. In many cultures, it is not until the third Sunday of Advent that people begin to decorate for Christmas. In both my and my husband’s families, we do not put the tree up until Christmas Eve morning, to mark the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas (my mother also admits it kept the excitement level of me and my eight siblings more manageable!). Why not wait to decorate or decorate a little each week as a practice or both waiting and preparing.
4. “Be on Guard!” The prophets teach that we must be ready and recognize the Messiah when he comes. Consider adding daily Mass (if you don’t already) to your Christmas preparation. I think the four-week season is perfect for deciding to pray in a new way—it’s not such a long commitment, so take up the Liturgy of the Hours, or Lectio Divina or Centering Prayer and see how you like it. Make room for Confession before Christmas.
5. Read something spiritual. Set aside some quiet time to read something spiritual or listen to some of the great Advent music that is part of the Church’s tradition (helps not being sick of Christmas carols when Christmas finally comes!).
Feel free to share other ideas with us. Happy Advent