28 November 2010

28 November - 1st Sunday in Advent

Weather: The last Sunday of the month indicates the weather for next month.
Clear, brilliant, sunny, and not cold.  This is a gift.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent and the beginning of the Advent Season.  It is also the beginning of the Liturgical Year.

Fisheaters has a good overview and ways to celebrate.   The most famous tradition is the Advent Wreath with four candles; the first, the candle of the Patriarchs, is lit tonight.  Also well-known are Advent Calendars, which usually start on December 1st and go until December 24.  Commercially made calendars have religious pictures and a verse of scripture behind each door, or a piece of chocolate, or a small ornament.

Less well-known are Jesse Trees, wherein one reads the appropriate Bible story or verses before placing the night's ornament on the tree.  It is based on Isaiah 11:1-2,
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord.

All of these (except possibly the chocolate) are good ways to spiritually strengthen us and remind us of the real reason for the season: He is Coming!

Lights!  Glitter!  Action!

Many, if not most, people have already put up their Holiday tree, decorated the house, put up the outside lights (which will stay there until March, because nobody is going out in the ice and snow to retrieve them), and started playing endless loops of carols.  The stores certainly have been doing this for the last month.  There is a mad rush to make everything magazine-worthy - perfect Holiday Entertaining with perfect-but-never-tried-before Holiday Recipes, perfect Holiday Presents wrapped in perfect Holiday Gift-wrap, perfect Holiday Decorating with the latest in perfect Holiday Ornaments... all accompanied with perfectly pasted-on Holiday Smiles and Good Cheer, and surrounded by perfect Holiday Music.

By the time Christmas arrives, everyone is sick of it. 

This year, try something different.  Treat Advent as it should be treated - as a time for spiritual reflection and anticipation of Our Lord's Coming.  Yes, it is like a little Lent.  Strengthen your faith by reading a theological book - we are called to explain our faith at all times; if you cannot, it is time to put in some study.  Increase your works of spiritual and corporeal mercy - alms if you can, but prayers are something anyone can do.  Read the prayers and verses that accompany each candle, calendar day, or Jesse Tree ornament with your family at night.

I'm not asking you to give up the decorating, et al, until Christmas Eve (which is when it was traditionally done, by the way).  Certainly shopping for presents is in order.  But maybe this year, put off the decorating until a week before, perhaps to celebrate the beginning of the Golden Nights on December 17.  That way, you won't be tired of Christmas when it finally arrives, and you can go on celebrating for the Twelve Days following.