By Father Bernie Weir
Advent is my favorite church season. It is only four weeks long, you don’t have to fast, and then the best part — it ends with gifts. You just can’t go wrong with anything that ends with you getting a gift.
One of the problems with Advent is it almost makes you feel like you are living a schizophrenic life for a month. The church says don’t anticipate Christmas during Advent. Keep Advent, Advent. It is a time of joyous anticipation. Sing Advent songs, not Christmas carols. Use purple, but a different shade than you use during Lent. Advent’s purple should have a bluer tint to it than that of Lent. I have two different sets of purple vestments, one for Advent and one for Lent. Does one have a bluer tint than the other? I don’t know, purple is purple. My Advent vestment has small silver stripes. It just seems happier so I use it for Advent.
All I have to do is walk across the street to the rectory or go down the hall to my office and the schizophrenia begins. Thanksgiving Day I always go to my sister Kelley’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. I do not listen to Christmas music on the way to dinner. I do take my Frank Sinatra and Beach Boys Christmas CDs to play on the way home. I happily sing along (I’m in my car alone so no one has to endure my singing) to the Christmas carols, breaking every Advent rule there is.
For the next four weeks I am hoping to hear “Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer” and the dogs barking “Jingle Bells.” When I get home, and after I have marked out my Black Friday shopping route, the tree goes up. Then, and over the next week, it seems like I can’t stop breaking Advent rules. My countless Santa Clauses come out of storage. My manger goes up and red, green and gold covers everything. I have one Christmas wreath with purple in it as a small nod to Advent. But this wreath should not be confused with an Advent wreath. It has snowmen instead of candles.
Advent is my favorite church season. It is only four weeks long and it ends in gifts.
I totally believe that we can prepare for Christmas as the world tells us and celebrate Advent as the church tells us at the same time. Multitasking is a wonderful thing. There is no reason to pretend that we aren’t celebrating Christmas all of December and for some since the day after Halloween.
During the first weeks of Advent the church focuses on the second coming. The next two weeks we are preparing for the birth of Christ. With believers, there is no reason to worry about them confusing the “Reason for the season.” We know that Advent and Christmas are about Christ. To those who don’t believe, we need to help them encounter Christ and not worry about them thinking that Christmas is about Santa and gifts. Once they have accepted Christ that confusion will take care of itself.
This year during Advent I will reflect on the Gospel of the second Sunday of Advent, Luke 3:1-6.
… it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
I will not spend time trying to think of ways to fulfill the words of Isaiah. I will leave that to others. Instead, I will spend Advent examining my life at St. James to see how I prevent these words from becoming a reality in Washington, Iowa. How am I preventing myself and others from walking the straight path, from finding the smooth path?
I already know some of the ways that I prevent the reality of the Kingdom of God from being found by others and myself.
My anger and frustration when things don’t go as planned; or even worse, when there isn’t a plan.
My ego when I start to think that every word that comes out of my mouth is important.
My blindness, when it prevents me from seeing the clear, smooth path that Christ has laid out for us.
My preoccupations when I don’t take time for prayer because I have let myself get caught up in the world of Christmas instead of the joy of Advent.
These are the ones that I know about. I have yet to discover what others lay hidden under all the wrapping paper that I will use this Christmas season.
What I desire is to discover how I prevent the words of Isaiah from becoming a reality in my parish. What I desire is that when Advent ends and I start the first Mass of Christmas I am holier than when Advent started. What I desire is that Advent will be filled with the joyful anticipation for the second coming and the birth of Christ.
If you aren’t able to be with your family this year at Christmas, remember they miss you as much as you miss them. Maybe next year you will be together. Call your family. Don’t just send a text. I hope you get a little of what you want for Christmas and all of what you need. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas. Padre Bernie
(Fr. Bernie Weir is pastor of St. James Parish in Washington.)