Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The season of Advent is, though short, of extreme importance in the liturgical and spiritual life of the Catholic Church. Our public worship during the Mass turns our attention to the closeness of our Savior. The Messiah, promised to God’s chosen people, is very near! As the Church directs our minds and hearts to this good news, each Catholic is invited to a personal time of preparation. The Lord Jesus comes for all people collectively, as well as for each of us individually. Thus, when we see the shepherds visit Jesus in the manger, we hear of them always as a group, but they each, personally, had a moment of encounter with Jesus. So too, in these four weeks of Advent, the Church invites us collectively to prepare for the coming of the Lord, and individually to cultivate in our hearts a deeper desire for His abiding presence.
I have, only half-jokingly, spoken about delaying listening to Christmas music and decorating our homes until later in the Advent season. The need to spiritually prepare for Jesus to come is of great seriousness. Naturally, I have nothing against Christmas music. Well, most Christmas music…I have very strong feelings against songs like “Baby It’s Cold Outside”(though never a good song, it is clearly no longer in keeping with the zeitgeist), “Santa Baby”(irritating tripe) and “Last Christmas”(symptomatic of an unhealthy cultural view of romance). I like Christmas decorations as much as anyone. But in our listening and decorating, we must ask how well we are preparing. The place we make ready is not only for guests or family. We are making ready our hearts for the most important Guest we can imagine receiving. In fact, we have already received Him in Baptism and been renewed week after week with His presence in the Eucharist. These weeks of Advent then, are really a time of renewal.
As we prepare, let the music you listen to and the decorations you hang be part of the spiritual preparation. I’ll propose two ideas to help with this. First, incorporate Advent decorations into your overall schema. For example, have an Advent wreath in your home and make lighting it part of family dinner. Put a purple bow on the wreath on your door, changing it to red only on Christmas. Keep in mind that this is the season of preparation. Second, before listening to another Christmas music station or putting up the tree, go to confession. This sacrament of God’s mercy is one of the most important ways that we prepare spiritually for anything. Even more is this true when preparing for the birth of our Savior. To receive the mercy that God lavishes upon us out of love is one of the best ways to prepare our hearts to receive the Savior when He comes!
In all of this, know that the Advent season is beautiful. Christmas is beautiful. We celebrate it with joy and great anticipation. Enjoy this great time of preparation, and more, enjoy welcoming Jesus in a special way when the angels will proclaim to us tidings of great joy, that a Savior is born to us, who is Christ the Lord.