For years, I've been told "Advent is not another Lent. It's JOYFUL!". Then the priest or DRE or whatever-minister-he/she-may-be would then launch into a joyful hissy about, "NO DECORATIONS BEFORE CHRISTMAS! NO CHRISTMAS SONGS BEFORE CHRISTMAS! DO SOMETHING FOR THE POOR AND NOT YOURSELF FOR CHRISTMAS! NO CHRISTMAS PARTIES UNTIL CHRISTMAS! DON'T PUT UP A TREE UNTIL CHRISTMAS DAY AND THEN LEAVE IT UP ALL THE WAY TIL LENT! THIS IS OUR TRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADITION!"
|The DRE Guide to Advent|
Well, then, turns out Advent is really a "little Lent":
FROM THE INTERNETS:
The word "Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means "coming” or "arrival.” The Advent season serves as a period of spiritual preparation for the coming of Christmas. Advent calls Christians to reflect on both the birth of Jesus and on the Second Coming of Christ. In Western Christianity Advent begins on the Sunday closest to November 30, St. Andrew’s Day, and lasts till December 24, thereby extending over a period of 22 to 28 days. In the Orthodox Church Advent begins on November 15. The Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran traditions view Advent as the beginning of the Church year. The liturgical color for Advent is purple, reflecting the repentant mood characteristic of early Church Advent observances. By contrast, many popular customs associated with this period joyfully anticipate the coming of Christmas.
Seriously, if it's such a NOT-A-LENT, then why do parishes offer Confessions during Advent? And really? The freakin' COLORS ARE ALMOST THE SAME!!! It's almost...like we do...in...LENT! So, yes, we can be penitential and happy all at the one time.
Here's what I suggest. Like the 12 Labors Lent, here's the Lil' Labors of Advent:
1. Think of someone you can stand to pray for for 4 weeks. Consider getting a list of those coming into the Church or someone on the sick/homebound list. Or, think of a family member. Maybe a family member who needs more than just a new iPhone or Patagonia sweater for Christmas. When you've decided on this person, you have completed step 1.
2. Consider 4 things you can do for this person as far as prayer and sacrifice. One thing for each week. Now, watch the calendar because the fourth week is like a day long so think of 4 things that can be done in Advent-weeks. Some humble suggestions: learn some of the responses in Mass by heart, read the Gospel of Luke's opening and all the way through the birth of Christ and write your thoughts down about it, visit the sick, clean out your closet and donate some clothes to Goodwill and so on.
3. Send the person a note telling them you're praying for them and resolve to do 4 things for their good.
4. At the end of the season, send them a Christmas card telling them of your experience of prayer for them.
I told the teens last night that Advent is the time we wait for the Christ child to come. Like any family waiting for a newborn, things get shifted around. Rooms are cleaned out, things are cleaned and smoothed out for the baby's security, and we sometimes have to give up something for the baby (be quieter, share a room with a sibling, learn to change a diaper....oh, man...the memories..shudder).
Advent is the same. We shift things around and smooth out the edges so Christ can be born in our hearts.
What better way to commemorate the Baby Jesus' arrival than...wait for it...DO LABOR?
Bwahaha..get it? Labor?? Because of birth? I am HI-LARIOUS!
Ok, ok..anyway. Try the Lil' Labors. Maybe even pray for mean ol' Father McHateyChristmasy. Bet he won't turn down prayers (or scotch, or money, or a putter, or a pair of shoes, a ticket to Europe....)