It is early December, which means we have entered a special and festive and joyful season. We are once again in the season of … Advent.
Advent?! Who pays any attention to Advent anymore? Our entire American culture has been going bonkers for the Christmas season since about 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving afternoon (This doesn’t include the retail industry, of course, which started focusing on Christmas the minute the Back-to-School sales ended on Labor Day weekend).
Well, if we’re Catholic, we should pay attention to Advent. Advent is an entire season of its own. It’s the season before the season. And just like Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season (Actually, Jesus is the reason for ALL seasons).
The word Advent means “coming.” We await the coming of the Lord, both His first coming, which we celebrate on Christmas Day, and His future Second Coming, which is the theme of the Gospel readings at Sunday Masses during Advent.
This year the Advent season marks the three-year anniversary of the changes in the Mass responses. It wasn’t so bad after all, was it? Everybody now seems to be doing fine with the “And with your spirit” response (Although the “consubstantial with the Father” and “enter under my roof” phrasings still don’t quite roll off the tongue very easily, do they? Maybe one of these days).
Our culture has it all wrong. Nowadays, the Christmas season begins in earnest during halftime of the Detroit Lions football game on Thanksgiving afternoon. Then it continues at a feverish, frantic, and over-indulgent pace right up until the morning of December 25th. And in many people’s minds Christmas is over as soon as the last gift is opened—which in some households occurs at about 5:45 a.m. (The season of “How am I going to pay these bills?” begins in mid-January when the credit card statements arrive in the mail. This is followed in early February by the season of “Did I really spend 800 bucks on a treadmill for a Christmas gift that’s been used exactly twice and now has served as an expensive coat rack since December 28th?”)
However, according to the Church calendar, the season of Christmas BEGINS with the Christmas Eve vigil Mass, and then the Twelve Days of Christmas continue until the Feast of Epiphany on or about January 6th. The four-week period leading up to Christmas Day is the season of Advent.
It might be a good idea if we embrace the concept of Advent once again. Let’s be honest: even those of us who love Christmas often find the month of December to be very frantic and frustrating, expensive and exhausting. Wouldn’t it be nice to lead up to the 25th with a sense of calm and serenity, rather than the usual throbbing headache, frazzled nerves, and volcanic heartburn?
Here are some good things about the season of Advent: Number one, candles. An Advent wreath with candles is such a quaint and cozy change of pace compared to those gaudy, blinking-light mechanical reindeer.
Next, there is the music of Advent. Okay, you’re right, there aren’t a lot of Advent hymns. But “O Come Divine Messiah” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” are so lovely, and much nicer than hearing for the zillionth time “Grandma got run over by a reindeer.”
Finally, during Advent we can invoke the Christmas Procrastination Rule, which states: If you observe the season of Advent during December, you have a legitimate excuse for putting off much of the typical holiday season stressful foolishness.
So enjoy the true season. Ho, ho, ho, and Merry Advent.