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Advent We Wait
So, here we are near the end of November and it was just Thanksgiving week. This is the beginning of a busy and flying time of year. In a mere 5 weeks, we will look back on today and wonder just where the time went?
Christmas Day will have passed and we will stand there wondering if we even really lived the last month, did we make lasting memories, or was it some passing dream that we just lived through without truly experiencing the Hope and anticipation of the season that would have made it all meaningful.
Growing up my family always had the same tradition. When Halloween was over, the egg nog was bought & Christmas time began. Christmas music commenced immediately on November 1st and the tree was put up no later than Thanksgiving Day – no matter how early it was that particular year.
Thanksgiving Day celebration dinner was prepared, enjoyed and then all over just like that in a few hours! (except for the hot turkey sandwiches for the next 5 days).
On that day after dinner was done, it was official the ‘Christmas season celebration” had begun. Literally, until New Year’s Day – we had egg nog, desserts, cookies, chocolates and Christmas candies of all kinds every day.
By the time Christmas Eve came, the celebration was getting a little tiring. Yes, of course, we had the excitement of Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa, Christmas morning opening presents and followed by a big Christmas Day dinner and more egg nog…
It’s All Over
But, it wasn’t long after the 25th that the tree was torn down, decorations stored away until next year. Christmas music was playing no more and a sort of sadness set in. I often felt like it was such a letdown.
What just happened? Such celebration, food, and festivities then nothing. It was over. We had arrived on Christmas Day for what? Presents? More egg nog? What was the last month all about? What was it all for?
This is how every December 26th felt to me. It was all over until next year. Soon we would be back in school or work, and time would move on and Christmas Day forgotten…at least this was the case until I met my husband.
It was he who introduced to me a different way of approaching this time of year and a whole new way to celebrate this wonderful season. In 1998, God invited me into the Catholic Church. The Church my husband belonged to and my experience of Christmas would never be the same.
How Being Catholic Made Christmas Better
As a Catholic, my family and I celebrate the season of Advent. This is the time from the first Sunday in December until Christmas Day.
Advent means ‘Coming‘ in Latin and is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas, during Advent we wait. This is the time for preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus into the world at his birth.
We are supposed to use this special time of year to truly reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and to get our hearts ready for Jesus’ entry into our own world as a little baby. And, not to forget that we are also to be preparing our hearts for the Second Coming.
This ‘preparation time’ has created for me, and many others, a special season of wonder and a time of reflection in a way that I never experienced as a child. This year’s Advent begins on Sunday, November 29th.
This is when we bring out the Advent wreath and start to truly experience this wonderful season in a way that I was not exposed to until God called me to become Catholic.
So, while the world is busy celebrating the many days before the arrival of Jesus on Christmas Day, our family will be trying to slow down, take a breath and truly think of who it is that we are preparing for.
How do we do this? Well, my husband and I began to introduce some family traditions to help our family and us to more fully grasp & appreciate this wonderful time of year.
Let me share with you just what we have incorporated into our family with the intent of making Advent rich for everyone.
Advent Traditions We Have Created – Advent We Wait
First, we put up & arrange our Nativity set – without the baby Jesus, of course. When you gaze upon the scene you can’t help but reflect on what this time of year is truly about.
Jesus will be placed in the manger on Christmas Eve as part of our own tradition. The kids usually argue about who will get to do the honors. And I can never remember just ‘who’ did it last year or who’s turn it is.
Second tradition, we set up our Advent wreath. A lot of Catholic families do this. It is a wreath with four candles. 3 Purple and one pink. On each Sunday during Advent, you light a new candle.
The three purple candles call to mind the preparation and repentance during this season of Advent. St. John the Baptist reminds us to “make ready the way of the Lord” (St. Mark 1:3).
We are reminded to prepare our hearts to receive the Christ Child at Christmas while also to make ready and prepare ourselves for the Second Coming of Jesus. We repent of our sins (including confession) and try to be more worthy of our Lord.
The pink candle is a sign of rejoicing. We light that one the 3rd Sunday of Advent.
~ The Blessing of Community~
Coming together every Sunday evening just for a few minutes to light the candle, reflect on that day’s scripture readings and saying a short prayer really helps us to ‘keep time‘ with the Church during this season.
It is always such a nice experience to walk into Mass on Sunday and see that our Advent wreath is right in step with the wreath at church. The Priest & Deacon will be wearing purple and the banners around the church will also be purple.
The use of the wreath and purple color keep us aware of the season and that our spiritual home and family are both looking forward and preparing for the same thing.
The third tradition we have put into place is we put the names of our immediate family members’ into a bowl. We each take a turn and choose one. This is for a kind of ‘exchange’. We have decided to call it ‘Advent Angel‘ instead of secret Santa.
The whole point of it is to secretly do kind, loving and good deeds during Advent for the person whose name you pick. These deeds can be taking care of their chores, giving small gifts and/or doing small acts of kindness.
The kids really enjoy this. It gets their minds off of themselves and thinking about how they can show love to their siblings & parents. Making handcrafted gifts and leaving love notes on beds are just a few of the things they do.
Save The Egg Nog
I had mentioned that as a kid we had egg nog from Thanksgiving until the New Year – non-stop.
Early on in our relationship, my husband requested that we save this ‘treat’ for Thanksgiving Day and then not again until Christmas Eve. At first, I thought to myself ‘that is just weird‘ but, that little request has taught me so much! (he is so wise -always gently encouraging me to grow & look at things differently).
Waiting for and anticipating the ‘egg nog’, dimly represents somewhat what Advent is and what it is all about.
After we wait…
We will celebrate but first, we wait, repent & prepare our hearts so that we can fully experience the joy of the celebration.
We feast but first, we give thanks for our Lord and his becoming that little humble babe. For our many Blessings, our family, our very life.
We receive gifts but first, we gift our love to the one who loved us first and to one another.
Advent has helped me to really sit back, slow down, wait for the Messiah, the ‘egg nog’ and just soak in the Season. I have less stress and I can deeply appreciate the many blessings that are all around.
The beautiful white snow. The wonderful Christmas lights, music and trees so wonderfully decorated. The excitement of family. the company of friends and the more intentional kindness of people we come face to face with each day.
Advent has changed so much about how I see Christmas. This will always be my favorite time of year! I love the music, the lights, the tree, the snow and yes the food and festivities.
I still enjoy all of these things but I enjoy them in a more timely fashion and at a much slower pace. Some of these things I can go without (for a time) so that I can more fully embrace the Christmas Season, which begins Christmas Day. And then I come to the point where I more fully appreciate the Meaning, the Season, & yes, even the egg nog!
Until then – during Advent we wait…