Advent awareness

This past weekend we celebrated the 1st Sunday of Advent.

According to the dictionary, the word advent comes from the Latin “adventus,” which means arrival or coming. Basically, we celebrate two important arrivals at this time of year — the birth of Jesus Christ in a Bethlehem stable more than two centuries ago and the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus at a yet-to-be-determined time in the future.

While most people are running around shopping, or busily addressing Christmas cards, or planning holiday gatherings, the Church asks us to prepare in a different way.

We’re to prepare our hearts to receive the greatest gift ever given. We’re to sweep clean the old, making way for the new. We’re to quieten our spirits, immerse ourselves in prayer, do penance for our failures, and focus on others’ needs through charitable giving of time and possessions.

That’s a lot to ask for in four weeks’ time!

But we don’t have to go it alone. Some churches conduct a one-week mission, in which a special presenter challenges us to more fully live our faith. Others offer a variety of Advent-related literature or activities, including the popular Advent calendar which counts down the days to Christmas, as well as the Advent wreath, with its symbolism of Light coming into the world.

So the mad dash to the mall for “just one more present,” the frantic sending of cards, the elaborate outdoor decorations designed to “keep up with the Joneses” — none of these should be on our agenda. Yes, we have to prepare for Christmas, but no, we don’t have to over-prepare.

As the slogan goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

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