Just wrote this for this upcoming Sunday bulletin. Thought it seemed appropriate in response here:
FROM THE DEACON
“Prepare ye the way of the Lord”. We hear these iconic words in our first reading this Sunday from the prophet Isaiah. As I put pen to paper (well okay, fingers to keyboard) to write this note, our good pastor is preparing for the upcoming busy season by taking few well deserved days off with family in Vermont. He is no doubt praying, as he often does, for snow. Not to worry though, my prayers are cancelling his out.
Nonetheless, we would all do well to take our cue from both him and Isaiah and use this time to prepare for the coming of our Lord. During Advent we anticipate both the coming of the baby Jesus at the nativity, as well as the coming of the Risen Jesus at the end of time. In preparing for these dual “comings”, we should keep in mind that Advent is NOT the Christmas season, but is in fact a time to anticipate and prepare, both temporally and spiritually.
The Advent season has these characteristics: It is a season of,
1) Hopeful longing,
2) Joyful expectation,
3) Prayerful penance, and
4) Spiritual preparation.
Our Church has throughout the ages, given us many traditions to assist us in this preparation. In that vein, may I be so bold as to suggest a few that may help us all prepare for the coming of Lord.
- Advent Wreath: One of the most popular ways to celebrate Advent is with an Advent wreath. Four candles (three purple and one pink), are used to count down the weeks until Christmas. Each Sunday of Advent one of the candles is lit and special prayers are said. Each Sunday of Advent has a particular theme leading up to the birth of Christ.
- Advent Devotional Reading: There are lots of great Advent books that take you deeper into the profound theology of Advent. God comes to us as a Child, and this is amazing to think about! Going through each day with devotional reading is one of the best ways to spiritually prepare yourself for Christmas, the birth of the King of Kings.
- Advent Calendars: Another popular way to celebrate the Advent season, especially popular with children, is the Advent calendar. Counting down the days to Christmas helps children to anticipate patiently and to focus on waiting for the baby Jesus to be born. You can purchase one, or make one as a fun craft time for kids.
- Nativity Scenes: Nativity sets are a classic tradition and are great to display during the Advent season. To make the display especially poignant, wait until Christmas Eve to place the Baby Jesus into the scene. The Vatican has a neat tradition of the Holy Father blessing the Baby Jesus from family nativity scenes, called Bambinelli Sunday. This takes place on the third Sunday of Advent—Gaudete Sunday. Perhaps you could ask your vacationing pastor to bless your Baby Jesus figure upon his return from “Holiday Inn”. (Vermont, Connecticut, WHATEVER. It’s all “Patriot country” anyway.)