Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Blitzing by Advent to Christmas

Here we sit at what is, in the secular world, the end of the year; yet for those in the Christian faith, it is the beginning of a new one. These worlds collide at Thanksgiving, when the secular world explodes into the frenzy of the holiday trifecta (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years), and the Christian world begins its preparation for the Advent of Christ Incarnate.

I have noticed in these past years that even the Christian world blitzes right into the joyous season of Christmas, totally bypassing the preparatory weeks of Advent. Christmas lights go up on houses, trees are purchased and decorated, parties and gatherings are crammed into those few weeks before December 25. What a pity.

Advent is a beautiful time of year. The season is heralded in by the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30). As it continues for four weeks before Christmas, the season is filled with both a call to joyous hope of mercy and deliverance, and an introspective call to penance.

Advent connects the Biblical past of Old Testament prophecies to the birth of the promised Redeemer. The liturgy throughout these weeks is rich with reminders of patient suffering and holy hope. It is a wonderful time to tap into activities to broaden our understanding and place our focus on the upcoming Christmas season. In fact, there are so many activities it can be difficult to choose one. Many can be done as individuals; some are better suited for family or church community consideration. These are some of my favorites:

The St. Andrew Novena (Christmas Novena)
St. Andrew's feast day on November 30 begins the Christmas Novena. A full discussion and the novena itself can be found here. I like this novena as it encompasses the entirety of Advent - a daily reminder of how Our Lord was born into this world. It helps me cope with many of the problems I encounter each day.

Advent Wreaths 
One of the most popular activities to bring the sense of Advent to life is the Advent Wreath. Greens arranged in the form of a wreath and adorned with four candles, three purple and one rose, are lit one week at a time beginning the First Sunday of Advent. A new one is lit each Sunday, with the rose candle reserved for the Third Sunday. Another terrific explanation of the symbolism, as well as the prayers for the ceremony can be found at this website. The Advent Wreath and the prayers bring the family together in preparation for Christmas.

The Jesse Tree and Advent Calendars
The Jesse Tree is another one of my favorite Advent activities for families and communities. There are many different kits available for purchase, but I made my own from felt and is displayed as a wall hanging. It is a favorite because it ties the Old Testament prophecies to the Birth of Christ, as well as tracing Christ's ancestral roots, beginning with Creation. Symbols are placed on the tree each day starting December 1, and is accompanied by a Scriptural passage. has a nice discussion about it, as well as directions for creating your own Jesse Tree. Click here to explore this site.

Along similar lines to the Jesse Tree is the Advent Calendar. This Advent activity, in my opinion, has been co-opted by the secular world to the point that it has really lost its spiritual significance. Google "Advent Calendar" and a host of options are at your fingertips: from children's Lego versions with a Star Wars theme, to an adult version involving alcohol, the Advent Calendar is my least favorite activity.

There are many choices we can make as individuals, families and faith communities to grow and deepen our preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. If any of these activities pique your interest, go for it! Lessons learned along the way will make the Christmas season - which begins on December 25 - more profound.

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