Thursday, December 9, 2010


There was a fight in a local sacristy recently. “Stop wishing people a Merry Christmas,” one priest said, “It’s advent!” The other priest stepped out into the sanctuary and said over the microphone, “Once again, Merry Christmas everyone!”

For many people advent is like a black hole, a void, and our celebratory nature abhors a vacuum and so Christmas gets sucked into the advent season and we have most of our Christmas parties, put up our decorations, and sing our Christmas songs. Unfortunately the end result is that once Christmas comes we are so tired of it that we start packing it up just as the Church is just beginning to celebrate the season.

So how does one “celebrate” advent? There are few things one can do. There’s prayer and extra Masses. There is always that advent calendar of course and the advent wreath. A Jesse tree is always appropriate. There are the holy days to observe and celebrate during this season: St. Nicholas Day being one with the most traditions attached to it. But by and large advent is about NOT doing anything. It is about cutting back, it is about waiting, it is about being in a moment of silence before the noise of celebration begins. (That’s why we don’t sing the Gloria during advent.) It is like waiting for the apples to ripen on the tree in the summer sun – wait – wait – wait – and then just as it’s time for perfection – a deer comes and eats them – er – I mean you get to eat a great, ripe, fresh apple. The waiting makes it all the more special. If you can eat it every day, it loses something.

So what can you NOT do to celebrate advent? If you must put out your manger scene, wait to put out Jesus. Then when someone asks, “Hey! Where’s Jesus,” you have the opportunity to say . . .

Don’t put out ALL of your Christmas decorations. Don’t leave your tree lights on all of the time. Hold the three kings back. Hold back on the best treats at least for yourself. Try wishing “Happy Advent” to people – at least those who won’t think you too strange. (And when they ask you, “What did you say?” . . .) I used to send advent cards. No, you can’t find them – you have to make them. In any event, try to find ways to build the anticipation so that when Christmas hits and the wrapping paper is all over the house it is not the case of, “Well . . . that’s over. Now what?” It is rather, “Now we begin the celebration!”


Margaret C. said...

Oh Father, I am so glad for your comments on Advent! We have finally (as of last year) changed what was our Christmas party for the PSR kids to an Epiphany party. It was a big success......... The whole parish attended.

Anonymous said...

when I was a child, the wise men were not put out until the feast of the Epiphany


Anonymous said...

I was thinking the same thing while attending the "Christmas Program" this year. Old habits are hard to break.

Happy Gaudete Sunday!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "Merry Christmas", Father, I heard a cute thing on the radio the other day. Someone wished that we all have a "Mary" Christmas and not a "Martha" Christmas. I thought it was very clever!

--Carolyn :)