The First Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new Church year.In a way, it’s like New Year’s Day for us Catholics; but there weren’t (won’t be) any funny hats, or noise-makers, or streamers. What is it that we’re celebrating during Advent, as we begin another Church year?
The word “Advent” means “beginning.” We’re beginning a new Church year, yes; but specifically, we’re beginning a new liturgical year. In our liturgies (the public worship of the Church), we will be marking throughout the year the “seasons” of Christ’s life. Just as the seasons of the calendar year mark the evolution of nature, the seasons of the Church’s liturgical year mark the evolution of the life/passion/death/resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each year, we re-live (not just re-peat) the events of our salvation.
We begin with Advent, the season of hope-filled waiting. It’s a time to recognize, “Almost, but not yet.” The trick, for us modern-day Christians, is to actually wait. As you are well aware, society doesn’t recognize Advent. The earlier the Christmas season starts, the better it is for the stores’ “bottom line.” Resist! Delay decoating (The Little Sisters wait until December 9, the day after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception); delay listening to Christmas music (It can be heard, 24/7, on the radio from the day after Thanksgiving); delay any shopping you may do. “Almost, but not yet.”
If I sound like “Scrooge” to you, that’s a good sign that you have bought into society’s message that it’s not good to wait. The problem with the “Christmas rush,” it seems to me, is that we “rush” right past Advent—the Church’s season of waiting, the Church’s season of preparation. To truly prepare, we must look inside ourselves, and not worry so much about the outside. How have we, in our sinfulness, made “the way of the Lord” more treacherous, more rocky, more crooked? This examination of conscience is why the liturgical color of Advent is violet—the penitential color.
Liturgically speaking, the Christmas season doesn’t start until the Vigil Mass of Christmas eve. So, while many stores and homes start to remove Christmas decorations on December 26 or soon after, the Church’s Christmas season is only beginning! It continues for two more weeks until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Please take this reality into consideration in your decisions to “un-decorate” and to stop listening to Christmas music.