This weekend we begin the beautiful Season of Advent, a season of joyful anticipation and patient waiting. It also marks the beginning of a new Liturgical Year, during which our Gospel readings at liturgy will be from the Gospel of Matthew. We often think of Advent as the time when we prepare for the coming of God. However, the readings at Mass today and throughout Advent this year focus more on our journey to God. We are a pilgrim people. Our readings remind us that God, or heaven, can not be found in some distant place or another world. We will encounter God where we live and work. We will connect with God deep within ourselves, and in the new world of justice we create for each other.
I encourage you to enter fully into the Season of Advent, paying full attention to its many images and symbols: the Holy Mountain of God, the lamb and the lion lying down with each other, swords (the instruments of war) being turned into ploughshares (instruments of peace), the Jesse tree, the prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist, and the Virgin Mother. They are powerful accompaniments on our way to God. I also encourage you to enter into the sacred silence of the season.
In other words, I urge you not to rush Christmas. For us in the Church, Christmas begins at 4:00 PM on December 24, and extends to the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord on January 12. We will have plenty of time to celebrate the great joy of Christmas. In a culture focused on instant gratification we often lack the patience to wait, and begin celebrating Christmas far too early. We end up shutting out the spiritual benefits offered us by the Advent season. Advent offers us a great opportunity to teach our children to be patient, and to foster greater patience in ourselves. (In my experience, the one sin people confess in the sacrament of Reconciliation more than any other sin is the sin of “impatience!”)
We live in a consumer culture which is already celebrating Christmas. We can do our best not to buy into it. Our parish staff and council’s Christmas parties will be celebrated in the Christmas Season. We will fully embrace this beautiful season of Advent. The irony is that, the more you fully celebrate Advent in patient waiting, the far more joyful your Christmas will be. It is far worth the wait. Trust me!