Dear Friends in Christ:
Watch! Prepare! Rejoice! Behold!
These are the themes for the holy season of Advent. The question is: will it really be holy? The answer depends upon us. A lot of people bemoan the commercialization, stress and whatnot of the secularized holiday season. I advocate that we not do that. Instead of complaining or lamenting about the holidays do something about it – make them holy! Make Advent a true time of preparing for and welcoming Jesus anew in our lives. Like Lent, the season of Advent is both a period of preparation and penance. As things can get so hectic this time of year, we should deliberately slow down and pray more! Whatever does not get done, doesn’t get done. It is Ok! The world will not end because the guest bathroom did not get cleaned. To help us focus on the truly important stuff – the holy stuff – there are additional Mass and Confession times during Advent. Treat yourself and treat your family to coming to a weekday Mass and going to Confession. If you feel yourself getting stressed come and spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. Spend some quiet time with the Lord. The daily Mass readings for Advent are wonderful. Even if you cannot attend a weekday Mass read and pray the Mass readings.
We have many wonderful Catholic customs associated with Advent and Christmas. Initiate the customs and appropriate them in your family. Before putting up the tree and lights have a home Advent wreath. Have an Advent calendar for the kids. Wait to put the Christmas tree and lights up at the end of Advent and keep all the decorations up through the Twelve Days of Christmas. Plan to celebrate Epiphany with a celebratory meal. Keep our faith traditions alive in your family. Make it a point to come to Mass on Christmas Day (avoid the crowds at the vigil Masses). Get together with other families and have a Christmas carol sing along.
There is a lot going on in the world that is not good. Do what you can do in small way to be an instrument of good. As an act of penance consider fasting from TV, social media, and technology. Instead spend some time with a friend or visit with a neighbor. Have a conversation about a good book, have a cup of coffee together, go for a walk outdoors with your spouse and kids. Those are some of the best gifts we can give! Family time during the holidays for many families can be a source of stress and tension. Often, it is not that too much time is spent with family, but rather more often, it is that you have not spent enough time. It takes time to get used to one another. Be patient and be forgiving of yourself and others.
As Christmas approaches it can be time of depression for some. This is especially true if it is the first Christmas after a loved one’s death. It is Ok and perfectly normal to be sad and miss our beloved dead. Recognize that you miss them, acknowledge that you are sad, pray for them, and then see how you can engage with others during Advent and Christmas. The death of a loved one is not the only cause for “the blues” during the holidays. Again, if we acknowledge what is causing us sadness and then engage ourselves with others in a holy, joyful, and self-giving manner, things improve greatly.
The key is not to focus on ourselves but on the Lord. If we keep our focus on the greatest gift – Jesus – then we will not have to worry or be distracted by all the commercialization and all of those things that can cause us needless stress and anxiety. The holy season of Advent and the holy Christmas season is not about us, it is about Jesus! When we keep Jesus first and always before us having a holy Advent and holy Christmas will naturally follow.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately