Saturday, November 25, 2023

Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Advent!

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. The word “advent” means arrival. During the liturgical season of Advent we prepare to celebrate the arrival of the Messiah — both His arrival as a baby in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, and His other arrival, when He returns to earth at the promised Second Coming.

Each year for the past three decades or so I’ve encouraged people to avoid getting caught up in the Christmas rush so early in December, and instead make some time to enjoy the season of Advent. (Did I just type “so early in December”? What am I thinking?! It’s more like “so early in November”!)
Not surprisingly, my efforts to convince people to focus on Advent have been about as successful as a guy trying to cut a 4 x 4 wooden post in half with a plastic butter knife. But I’m going to keep trying anyway, because it really is an important issue.

Advent is a wonderful prayerful season. Also, it’s the perfect antidote to all the hoopla and folderol of the modern Christmas season. (How often do you see the words “hoopla” and “folderol” in a sentence that was written after 1942?)

Let’s face it: 99% of our modern holiday traditions have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. I mean, think about it. A singing snowman? Reindeer, with or without a blinking nose? Chopping down a tree and bringing it (along with a few dozen spiders) into the house? Installing enough flashing lights so your house can be seen from outer space? Eggnog? Figgy pudding (which is what, exactly? I have no idea)? Getting blind drunk at office parties? 

The list goes on and on. And, of course, there is the main focus of the modern holiday season: maxing out your credit cards to buy expensive items that more often than not wind up in a cluttered corner of the basement by late March.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally bad-mouthing all of our modern holiday traditions. Many of them are harmless fun that evoke nostalgic memories of childhood Christmases from long ago. Despite popular opinion, I am not a Puritan who wants to outlaw Christmas. I’m just a Catholic who thinks we ought to pay a little attention to an important season on the liturgical calendar: Advent.

Therefore, here is some reverse psychology. Because of the way the calendar lands this year, the 4-week season of Advent is going to last exactly three weeks and one day. And the final day, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, is Christmas Eve. So guess how much Adventing is going to take place on that day? Right. Exactly zero.

(By the way, is “adventing” an actual word? I have no idea, and I suppose it doesn’t matter in our spelling-and-grammar-don’t-matter-anymore culture.)

So, here’s the reverse psychology: the season of Advent is so brief this year, you are going to completely miss it unless you make some effort right away to enjoy it. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Yeah, you’re right. That is some seriously pathetic reverse psychology. As if people are going to scramble to acknowledge something they always ignore anyway.

Well, let me instead go back to my usual sales pitch this time of year. We really ought to pay attention to Advent because it is a major season on the liturgical calendar. If we do focus some of our time on Advent, two wonderful things will happen. First, when Christmas does finally arrive, it will be really exciting, rather than anti-climactic after six weeks of non-stop hoopla and folderol. (There are those words again!)
Second, if we spend time honoring Advent during the first weeks of December — and let Christmas wait until it actually arrives — we just might use our credit cards more sparingly, rather than going into total max-out mode. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to pay for a tank of gas on, say, December 28th because we still have a little credit available on the card? Would that be a Christmas miracle, or what?

Therefore, take some time to enjoy Advent this year. If you have to, pretend the Advent wreath with candles is a mini Christmas tree. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it, even if there is very little hoopla and folderol. 


  1. We are still talking about advent and I'm still confused. I just don't get this. If you are religious and celebrating advent, doing the candle ceremony, doing the calendar, praying, perhaps attending extra services.........what is the problem? Why on earth can't you do that and continue to celebrate the Christmas season and do all the things that go with that as it purchasing your gifts, trim your tree, donate to charity, visit nursing homes, have a Christmas party, decorate, etc. Indeed these things can't be done Sunday morning on the last half day of Advent which is also Christmas eve day. They HAVE to be done before that. That's what advent IS......the leading up to and preparing for Christmas......Right?

    Ruth O'Keefe

    Ruth O'Keefe

  2. "Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally bad-mouthing all of our modern holiday traditions' Actually the previous 2 paragraphs are exactly that. Putting a huge negative spin on holiday traditions and bad mouthing them.

    Ruth O'Keefe