Happy New Year! Yes it is a new year for us as Catholics. We begin our new Church liturgical year with the season of Advent. We are celebrating the expectation and anticipation of the coming of Jesus. For the Jewish people it was the waiting and expectation of the birth of a Savior, for us as Catholics we anticipate the second coming of Christ. We wait in joyful hope....
To be honest it was only recently I knew what those words actually signified. Like everyone I decorated for Christmas shortly after Thanksgiving and then Christmas was over right after the actual day. I related that time of preparation to the material, I didn't do anything for me personally, my interior preparation, so to speak. I never thought about the waiting and the getting ready and what that was supposed to mean to me as a Christian. I remember one time I gave all my 5th grade students a small wrapped box of candy and made them sit it on their desk and wait until after Christmas Day to open it. The wait was very hard for them, but wait they did. I think there might have been only one student that opened his present ahead of time, but the others waited and seemed very proud of themselves for doing so. I told them that Advent was a perfect time to practice the virtue of patience. It was a lesson I learned as well. I think trying to teach them about the Israelites and those Jews that waited for a lifetime for a Savior to be born was something difficult to grasp. I'm not sure I was able to understand what all the fuss was about at that age. But having to look at a wrapped gift for three weeks would have been excruciating, the wondering would have killed me. I hope that with that one particular lesson and the celebrating of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I gave them some insight into 'getting themselves ready' to receive Jesus into their hearts and lives and to the changes in themselves they can expect by doing so.
A few years ago, we began to put off decorating the tree until just before Christmas Day. Everyday or so, I would put up a few more decorations and we would 'travel' the Nativity set until all the pieces came together on the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Wise Men would appear kneeling next to baby Jesus. This would take place over several weeks, all the cast of characters in different rooms of the house and the kids would anticipate whose room the Holy Family would travel to next to get to Bethlehem, located in a prominent place under the Christmas tree. It has remained a tradition in our house for many years now. I hope they will continue the tradition in their own homes someday. Doing this has helped me to truly appreciate the gift of the Christmas season, that it doesn't end on Christmas Day, it lasts a full twelve days to celebrate the greatest gift we have ever been given.
Last year at Lent we were preparing for a visiting priest to celebrate a Traditional Latin Mass in our parish and he was running a few minutes late. As we all sat in the pews, waiting, quietly reflecting and anticipating, it struck me that this must have been what it felt like. This feeling of wondering and not quite knowing what was going to happen, this must have been what the Israelites felt, what Mary and Elizabeth and Joseph must have felt while waiting for the birth of the newborn King. Or even Anna and Simeon, waiting all their lives for a Savior so they might be redeemed. That is the feeling at Advent. What excitement that must have been.
So yes indeed get ready and get prepared for Christ is truly coming. Anticipate Him and wait for Him and then fully enjoy the season, all twelve days of them. And then...lucky us, we can celebrate the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist every time we receive Him in the Mass.