November 26, 2012
A Special Advent Reflection
by Father Christopher Roberts
We hear the message year after year, "Jesus is the reason for the season." Yet, with each year the celebration of Christmas seems to have less to do with Christ and more to do with Black Friday, the holiday shopping season and trying to manage family dysfunction. Rather than Christmas being a joyful time of celebration, for too many of us it is stressful and depressing.
A big part of the problem is that we pass the four weeks leading up to Christmas spending lots of time and money looking for just the right gifts for our loved ones and stuffing ourselves with Christmas goodies. We spoil Christmas like a child spoils her supper when she has too many cookies before a tasty dinner. It is hard to keep up holiday cheer when we are worrying about losing the weight we have put on, paying huge credit card bills in January and feeling sleep deprived from the insanity of the holiday rush. No wonder our family gatherings are often marked by strife. By the time Christmas rolls around we have already drunk the dregs of the celebration and there is simply no momentum left to keep it going.
The Church has another vision for the weeks before Christmas. While the world is baking, drinking egg nog, celebrating and spending, the violet hue of Advent season calls us to fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
It can be difficult to limit our consumption of alcohol, chocolate, meat and sugary foods during Advent, but my own experience has been when I have given these things up for long periods of time, I have enjoyed them all the more when the fast is over. Imagine how good chocolate tastes after weeks of not eating it! Not everyone is called to a strict Advent fast; the Church leaves the specifics up to the individual. But everyone should put the serious feasting off until the fast has ended on the evening of December 24.
Finding time for private prayer during Advent can be a challenge. There are so many details that need our attention to distract us. For precisely this reason Saint Alphonsus Liguori has added more opportunities for common prayer during Advent. Every Friday we will have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 9:30am to 7:15am on Saturday morning. We have added 6:30am Masses on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation after the added Masses. Advent gives us the opportunity to draw closer to God, the source of love, through sacramental prayer, which can be very helpful as we try to love family members who are at times difficult to love.
Many people are very generous with charitable gifts in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Most give out of a spirit of altruism. This altruistic spirit exists side by side with a materialistic spirit, one that is stimulated by billions of dollars of advertising. One way to moderate the materialism that surrounds Christmas is to focus on non-monetary gifts to loved ones. For example, a heartfelt apology for a years-old hurt that has strained a relationship would be a better gift than an expensive sweater. That said, when it comes to the truly needy we probably need to be more generous than we are. One way to do that is to spend less on gifts.
It is easy to wring our hands about the secularization of Christmas. Billboards and bumper stickers have a role to play, but the most effective way to keep Christ in Christmas is to keep Christmas out of Advent. The joy of Christmas comes from the fact that "the Word became flesh" to redeem all of creation. Learning to enjoy that creation in a more moderate way during Advent is good step toward a more authentic celebration of the first act of its redemption.
See other Advent news from the parish
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