Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This is the rare year in which, with Christmas Day falling on a Sunday, the season of Advent lasts a full four weeks. We always mark four Sundays in the season, but these full weeks of preparation and prayer give us a slightly different perspective. There is always a sense of joyful anticipation as Christmas Day draws near: if you like 1950s era Christmas music, you might have Lu Ann Simms singing in your head that she just can’t wait ‘til Christmas. Exciting for our younger selves, the imminent coming of the feast of our Lord’s Nativity can inspire nerves in our adult selves. In our busy lives, if Christmas movie tropes are any indication, we race through our holiday preparation, often overwhelmed by a frenetic pace and pressure to have everything just so. The shorter Advent actually is, the more intensely we feel this pressure. But four full weeks of Advent? Practically a luxury!
With these four weeks, we might consider that “frenetic” and “urgent” do not mean the same thing. The fast pace and extra pressure we face in this season is often a distraction from the most essential thing: the urgent task of preparing our hearts, minds, and homes for the coming of Christ. In the Gospel we read today, John the Baptist calls the people to repentance, to a change of life in preparation for the coming Messiah. This task is urgent. It is of the highest priority and greatest importance, and, John makes clear, the Messiah is coming soon. But urgent need not mean overwhelming pressure. As with any urgent task, it is incumbent upon us to begin to take action, understanding that none of us has the ability to instantaneously accomplish it. The season of Advent alerts us to this urgent task: Prepare the way of the Lord! And these four weeks remind us that the time to begin is now.
During this second week of Advent, we will celebrate one of the great solemnities of the liturgical year, as on December 8 we honor the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast celebrates the truth that God preserved Mary free from original sin from the moment she was conceived in the womb of her mother St. Anne. In anticipation of her role as mother of the Redeemer, the saving grace of the Cross of Christ was given to her. Thus Mary is from the very beginning prepared in every way to welcome the coming of Christ. As our Advent journey continues, Mary accompanies us, interceding on our behalf that we might always be ready to welcome her Son and that our preparation may bear fruit in our lives. The Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation, and is also the patronal feast day of the United States of America.
Finally, I am looking forward to our children’s Christmas Pageant on Dec. 18. I would like to thank Darcy Ronan, Patty O’Brien, and Mike Lantowski for their hard work with our children and for organizing this wonderful event! I encourage you to mark the day on your calendar and join us at 4 PM to continue preparing for the joy of Christmas!