In the Catholic Church, Christmas season officially began yesterday, which was the first Sunday of Advent. Like Lent, Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of our Lord, but unlike Lent, when we are waiting for Christ to rise from the dead and save us, during Advent, we are waiting for him to come to earth as a humble, unassuming infant.
For the secular world, Advent can be a stressful time of frenzied preparation for the holidays: shopping for the perfect gifts for everyone on our list, creating a good menu for Christmas Day dinner, making travel arrangements, attending holiday parties, etc.
By contrast, Lent is characterized as a time of fasting, silent prayer, and solemnity. Advent should technically be treated the same way; after all, the Magi gave up their rich, comfortable lives for a while so that they could travel miles to honor the newborn king when he was born. Mary and Joseph traveled for a long time before they arrived at the stable where their son came to earth – and they certainly didn’t travel in style or leisure.
Advent, in a religious sense, is a totally different concept from Advent in a secular sense. The secular world does not acknowledge Advent – it waits in anticipation of Christmas Day itself: the celebration, the time off work and school, the gifts, the meals… and it does not pay attention to the days leading up to Christmas; it just lets them go by in a whirlwind.
So… take some time to reflect and slow down during Advent, whether you’re religious or not. There is a much deeper meaning behind the season than what the secular world would have us believe.
Veni, veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
Veni, O Sapientia,
quae hic disponis omnia,
veni, viam prudentiae
ut doceas et gloriae.