Stores across the country have pulled out their Christmas displays full force, and several people I know have started blaring Christmas music in their homes or cars. With holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving in our past, it is now time to focus our gaze on Christmas, right?
It is important to look towards the coming of Christ at Christmas, and to prepare our homes for the celebrations that will take place. However, even though the culture treats this time as a pre-Christmas celebratory season, these weeks have a much deeper importance to Catholics. As the Congregation for Divine Worship states:
“Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.”
I have found that the Church brings the spirit of preparation into Advent very well. Unfortunately so many of us Catholics leave the celebration of Advent in the church on Sunday. It is easy to jump into the party with the culture, to attend Christmas light displays and bake cookies with the full intention of preparing for Christmas, but when we neglect to prepare spiritually—and when we forget to prepare for Christ’s Second Coming—we are missing out on a huge part of Advent.
I’m sure many of you have heard the clichéd phrase, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” This phrase can be found on bumper stickers and car magnets and will inevitably become at least one Facebook meme. While we strive to keep Christ at the center of our Christmas festivities, we can take this one step further: I invite you to keep Christ in Advent.
Find some way that you can spiritually prepare for the coming of Christ, and commit to this practice. For example, you can offer up a small sacrifice each week. You can participate in 5–10 minutes of silent prayer each day. You can actively engage in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. There are numerous opportunities to prepare for Christ and grow in love, and it is important to find something that will truly help you to grow.
Not only should we add spiritual practices to our life, but we also can benefit from preparing for Christ’s Second Coming. Admittedly, this is not nearly as fun as singing Christmas carols to old people in the nursing home, but it is vital as we journey towards Christmas. In the Gospel reading that we heard this weekend, Jesus speaks about the end times:
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.” (Lk 21:34-35)
Keeping the words of Our Lord in mind, we need to carefully examine our lives. We should purify ourselves to become more prepared for the Second Coming. I encourage you to frequent the Sacrament of Confession this Advent, especially if you have not been to Confession in months or years. God has been waiting to pour down His mercy onto you through this sacrament! Truly repent of your sins, and really make an effort to be a holier person.
This Advent, instead of only focusing on creating the perfect batch of cookies or finding the ugliest Christmas sweater available, bring Christ into your life in a much deeper way. Instead of making these next few weeks a pre-Christmas season of parties, let us truly make them a time for growth and spiritual renewal.
Photo: AnneMarie Miller