Every year at this time I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness: Advent is not Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting for Christ to be born in our hearts again. Advent is one of the most beautiful seasons in the Church year. It is a time to wait, not to celebrate. It provides an opportunity to take some time to look into our hearts and our lives for those deeper yearnings that so often are covered over by being busy. How do you personally need Jesus Christ to come into your life this year? This is very important and should not be missed.

We have lost the art of waiting. We have become accustomed to instant gratification through cell phones, texting, and the internet. As a result we are losing the sense of wonder and contemplation that enables us to appreciate beauty and mystery. This spiritual poverty is leading to dullness and depression. If we are going to be Christians in the world today, we need to be countercultural and recapture priorities and values that allow our hearts to yearn and our spirits to rest. This is what Jesus is asking us to do when He tells us to be watchful and alert. How can we find Christ at Christmas if we do not yearn for Him now? There is nothing magical about Christmas Day. Jesus will come suddenly and when we least expect. Hence, Jesus tells us to pay attention, to be vigilant. This is the opportunity Advent gives us and we will miss it if we shop until we drop.

In addition, Black Friday is now becoming Black Thanksgiving with stores opening on Thanksgiving evening, forcing many people to work and thus cutting into a day most valuable for gathering, conversation, and leisure time together. Please don’t even think about going to the Mall Thanksgiving evening. Send a signal to the greedy retailers and enjoy time with family and friends.

But also please allow Advent to be an opportunity for you. Christmas parties belong in the Christmas season which begins Christmas Day and goes to the Baptism of the Lord January 11th. It is understandable that Christmas parties occur as we get close to Christmas but it is contrary to the beauty of the Advent opportunity to hold Christmas parties even this week. Now I know what I am saying will not be popular or even accepted but it is my responsibility to represent the values involved here. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas becomes a shopping frenzy and we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. Do we really have to send Christmas cards at the last minute because someone we eliminated from our list has sent us a card? What is that really about? And since we complain that we have to bake thirteen dozen cookies for the cookie club, isn’t it be time to ask why we are still doing this. And if we end up all strung out from the pressures of all these external preparations that we are yelling at our children, what have we really accomplished?

So, here I am, Father Bah humbug! No, here I am inviting you to make room for Christ this Advent season, to allow the Prince of Peace to give you the inner strength you need to love, to search for the Savior who alone can give you reason to hope, to prepare now spiritually so that you can receive new life and renewed vigor when Christmas comes.

Happy Advent!

Father Jim

Advent wreath: CNS photo/Bob Roller