The season of Advent has it hard. When Christmas lights—and Christmas presents—take over store displays the second Halloween is over, and radio stations start playing old timey carols before the last bite of Thanksgiving pie has been eaten, Advent can seem a bit sour. Like a mournful little voice saying, “But it's not Christmas yet! Don't enjoy those Christmas lights! Don't sing along to those carols! Don't nibble those Christmas cookies! You're supposed to be sad right now!”
While there may be spiritual as well as health benefits to holding off on the Christmas cookies until after midnight on Christmas Eve, if that's all we're getting out of Advent, we're missing the point.
Advent’s purple is more about preparation than penance. Preparing for what? Well, for Christmas, for the coming of Jesus.
So, imagine Jesus was coming over to your house. What would you do?
I know I’d do a pretty thorough cleaning. Mop all those floors. Try to sort through that clutter that keeps piling up on the counters. Wash the windows. Empty the trash. Then, I’d start decorating. I'd try to make the house as inviting and attractive as possible. Put up some nice pictures, get some flowers.
And then I’d try to plan an amazing dinner menu with the most delicious foods, the best dessert, and the finest wine. Perhaps I’d invite other guests, too, if I thought Jesus would like a bigger party. And I'd get a gift.
It would be a lot of work. It might be stressful. But one thing it wouldn’t be is sad. It would be exciting, anticipatory, even fun. Something I’d want to get everyone in the house involved with.
But Jesus isn’t just coming into your home, he’s coming into your heart. So what to do, how to prepare?
Well, start by cleaning. Advent is a great time to go to Confession. It’s also a great time to declutter your life. What do you want Jesus to see when he comes to your heart? Is the last video you watched really what you want Jesus to see on your counter when he comes to visit?
And how will you decorate? How about by shining up the old good habits and developing some new ones?
Maybe a stack of wholesome books is just what your heart’s coffee table needs for when Jesus comes for a visit. Never underestimate the power of a good book to provide motivation for positive change. Or maybe a nice garland of kindness would look good on the windowsill. Finally, the planned dinner, the party activities, and the other guests.
Advent is a good time to think about the future. It’s like New Year's Day. A time to start new things. Do you need a new habit of prayer? Or a new friendship? A new way to bring God’s love to the world?
Think about it this Advent.
And if you're doing those things, you can feel free to enjoy those Christmas decorations, those songs, and maybe even the occasional sneaked Christmas cookie. (After all, someone has to do quality control, right?)
For some great inspiration, check out Catholic Teen Books short story anthology Gifts: Visible and Invisible. You'll find many stories about living Advent well.
About the author: Marie C. Keiser, one of CatholicTeenBooks.com authors, has been reading insatiably ever since she learned how, and writing almost as long. After teaching middle school for a few years and marrying one of her fellow teachers, she retired from teaching to further her plans for world domination . . . er, that is, to accommodate the needs of her growing family.
When she's not plotting with her husband or chasing toddlers around the house, she writes from an undisclosed location somewhere in the frozen North, otherwise known as central Minnesota.
Picture by Torsten Dettlaff at Pexels