As we enter the Advent season today, we could settle for the same as last year and accept that our lives will be pretty much unchanged by this season and every season of this new year. But we’re a people of HOPE—as we recalled in our introductory rites of this Mass—hope that will not disappoint. But I would suggest that our hope be enflamed and our faithful waiting be active. I suggest that each of us and our families enliven our waiting in Advent this year: rediscovering the blessings of our faith and the Church…there’s much in store for us who prepare well in Advent!
When I was growing up, I recall that the Advent season was filled with hustle & bustle: not shopping for Christmas gifts (we were a regular family with modest means). No, our preparing in Advent centered around the traditions of my family:
- My mom and dad would stock our family’s Advent calendar with goodies: maybe small tokens or pieces of candy or some coins…little things that piqued our curiosities each morning when we would open the window or slide the hatch and discover the day’s trinkets.
- On the first Sunday of Advent, my dad and mom would bless our fresh wreath and candles before supper, and while lighting that candle on successive nights we would sing “O come, O come Emmanuel”…okay it wasn’t pretty but it had an impact on us kids: our waiting was active, looking for One who was to come.
- On December 6th – the feast of St. Nicholas – we’d polish our shoes the night before (that was the one polish they got all, year!) and leave them outside our rooms before bed. Waking in the morning, we’d find them filled with chocolate coins and candies. As did any kid, we always looked forward to St. Nick’s feast.
- On the second Saturday of Advent, we would shop for a Christmas tree and decorate it, setting up our manger scenes throughout the house. On Sunday, after Mass, we would say a prayer of hope and blessing upon the tree and mangers.
- On December 12th – the feast of St. Lucy – we didn’t use electricity that evening, just tons of lit candles scattered throughout the house. Since television wasn’t an option, we would hold a game night in the dining room. We all got to choose a game we wanted the family to play and we would stay up late, enjoying the festivity of our little clan.
- On the third Sunday, we each would get our little baby Jesus figurines for our mangers and bring them to church for Fr. Starks to bless; of course, as soon as we got home we would hide them again until Christmas morning.
- And beginning on December 17th, as we sat down for dinner and lit the advent wreath, we would sing the day’s “O antiphon”. We could feel we were getting so close to Christmas!
These are the traditions of my childhood in Advent. They were activities that each and every day helped me to grow in my hope and appreciation for the Savior who is to come at Christmas. Every year it felt new, and alive, and excited.
May this year’s Advent season be filled with that kind of excitement for each of us; may it be a time for us to grow in faith-filled hope—an active and excited hope—that the One who is coming will come to bring us the newness of His own divine life.
“Come, Lord Jesus!”
A blessed Advent!