If you want Christmas to be special, celebrate Advent!
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Of all the seasons of the liturgical year, Advent seems to be the most overlooked. Overshadowed by Christmas, Advent is forgotten and unobserved. As a result, some struggle to make sense of Christmas and why the season matters at all.
LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Without Advent, Christmas loses much of its special meaning. A common complaint is that Christmas is a commercial holiday, with barely a passing mention of its Christian roots.
For most Americans, preparations for Christmas begin as early as October. There's a lot to do. There's lists to be made, there's a challenge to figure out what gifts to buy and for whom, and how much to spend. Then there's cleaning and groceries, and cooking, and decorating and more. On top of this there are Christmas parties, travel arrangements, and sometimes a birthday or two to complicate matters.
For most, Christmas is the most stressful holiday. It's also the most expensive. For retailers, it is a critical time where a business can either turn a profit or go bankrupt. As a result, businesses spend fortunes telling people to shop ceaselessly until their last dollar is spent.
Are you tired yet?
The problem isn't the commercial emphasis on Christmas. The problem is that we ignore Advent, setting it aside so we can pour our energy into preparing for the secular observance of December 25.
Some Christians might be surprised that Jesus addressed this very issue. In the Gospel of Luke, He shared the parable of the rich fool:
16 Then he told them a parable, 'There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land,
17 thought to himself, "What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops."
18 Then he said, "This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them,
19 and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time."
20 But God said to him, "Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?"
21 So it is when someone stores up treasure for himself instead of becoming rich in the sight of God.'
22 Then he said to his disciples, 'That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it.
23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
The point of the parable is that we have another life after this, one that is eternal. And we must prepare ourselves for that life. When we spend all our energy on earthly cares, we are neglecting our eternal life only to store up riches that we cannot take with us.
So, how do we fix the problem?
Advent is the answer! Advent is a period of waiting, repentance, and reflection in preparation for the coming of Our Lord, Jesus. Traditionally, the Church has observed the season as a "mini Lent" complete with fasting and reconciliation. Notice the color purple is used for the season, the same color as used during Lent.
We need to set aside some of our time and energy to pray, fast, contemplate, and to obtain the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this season. Imagine how much better we would feel if we put the same energy we put into Christmas into our Advent preparations.
Advent is more than just Advent calendars and attending Mass. It is about more than just counting the days until Christmas. It is intended to be a period of serious, sincere preparation. Like Lent, we should make sacrifices, so we can empty ourselves of our egos and distractions. By clearing our schedule and emptying our hearts and minds, we make space for Christ when He arrives on Christmas.
This is what we need if we want Christmas to have meaning again. If we want to enjoy the season without fatigue, we need to observe Advent.
Catholic Online has a series of daily Advent Reflections which you can find on Catholic.org. Here's the current reflection for today.
Try observing Advent, and let's see if your Christmas is better for doing so!
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