What is Advent? I have been a Roman Catholic my entire life. I am now 42 and just learned what Advent is. As a child, I saw the colored candles in church, noticed the priests wore different colored vestments (robes) and just counted the days till Christmas Eve.
The day after Thanksgiving last week, I pulled out all the decorations and started going through everything. My children were excited and annoying me, so I kicked them out of the living room. They weren’t going ruin my fun. I carefully cleaned the ceramic items, fixed anything that was damaged while being transported from the attic down the stairs, etc. I began cursing the cracks in the walls and the old furniture. My decorations would be perfect and stay that way!
On Saturday evening, after screaming at my children most of the day to leave me alone, I brought them to mass. Sitting proudly in the pew, thinking what a good mother I was, I listened to the readings. The gospel was about how we, as Christians, need to stay awake and alert. When God sent His son to earth, He was fulfilling a promise He made. When Jesus was killed on the cross, He opened the gates of Heavan so that we could be with Him after death.
The Purpose of Advent is to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus. I thought to myself, well He already came so why the big fuss. The big fuss is that He is going to come again. So, when we stay alert and listen and prepare for Jesus now, it is for His coming again! Advent reminds us of that promise. It reminds us to stay vigilant in our daily lives. Now I’m not talking about becoming a Holy Roller! All I am saying is that, for me, it means to continue to do the next right thing always.
The priest spoke about Black Friday and how people were stabbed over parking spaces, tazed and trampled for a $79 television. He told us to try and resist the urge to overload ourselves in the first couple of weeks of Advent. He said that instead of going crazy with the decorations and the shopping and the mayhem that Christmas has become, and sit quietly. Think about why we are doing all of this and why we celebrate Christmas at all. To appreciate your family and love and cherish them. I began thinking about earlier that day when I banished my children from the room, started cursing my life for having money problems and just allowing selfishness to take over.
Some people wonder why Catholics attend mass on a weekly basis. Why we sit in the pews, stand up, sit down, stand up, kneel down, etc. Why we listen to a priest who, in most cases, has no experience with having children or being married. Who doesn’t own a home and always is sheltered and fed. The way I see it is this. I have faith and love Jesus. He has carried me through dark times. He has been with me through triumphs I had never dreamed possible. He was with me when twenty children were murdered a half mile away from my home. I sit and listen every week because when the priest reflects on the gospel reading that week, he is speaking to me. God Himself called to these men to give us His message. To explain the words in the Bible that can sometimes be so difficult to understand and take in. God has given them a special gift to see the messages that I cannot see through my busy life with children and bills and payments, etc. He is re-affirming how I should behave in my daily life and how I can be a better person. He fills up my well! By time I make it to mass the next week, my well is bone dry. But, I know that after mass, having been in my safe place, it will be full again.
So this Advent season, I compel you all who believe, to sit quietly, reflect and look inward. To realize that all the hustle and bustle, Christmas lights and decorations, and gift frenzied shopping is all for one purpose. To prepare the way for Jesus to come and take us home. Sit and read a Christmas story to your child. Get an Advent wreath and let the children light it each night. Read the Magnificat Advent Companion each morning, or in the car waiting for the traffic to move or when you are sitting in the coffee shop stressing over everything you have to get done.
Try and make this Christmas more special by seeing the wonder the children’s eyes, teaching them what it all this truly means, having them do acts of kindness as gifts instead of buying things.
I have to be honest and say that after mass, I hugged my children tighter, let them play with my stellar nutcrackers, re-arrange some of the decorations and we watched a nice movie together.
I guess you could say I was counting my blessings.