Advent is the ‘joy of waiting’ before Christmas
November 26, 2019
An empty crib is seen in a Nativity scene at the headquarters of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington in 2018. During a 2018 homily, Pope Francis asked people to pray before the empty Christmas crib during Advent and say, “Come Lord, fill the crib, fill my heart and encourage me to give life, to be fruitful.” Advent begins on Dec. 1 this year. CNS photo.
HOUSTON — With Advent arriving on Sunday, Dec. 1, faith leaders in the Archdiocese continue preparations for a season with the “joy of waiting,” as Pope Francis has called the Advent season.
“We Christians are called to safeguard and spread the joy of waiting: we await God who loves us infinitely and at the same time we are awaited by Him. In this way, life becomes a great betrothal,” the pope said in a 2018 message.
Because of the large gap in time between classes for many college students during the winter break, three campus ministers hosted a Catholic Inter-University Women’s Day of Reflection.
Claire McMullin of the University of Houston’s Catholic Newman Center, Nicole Labadie of the University of St. Thomas and Rice University’s Mimi Tran hosted the event — the first of its kind — at the University of St. Thomas Art Gallery on Nov. 9 in anticipation of the coming Advent season.
McMullin admitted the academic calendar and its exam schedules make it difficult for college ministries to “celebrate Advent appropriately,” with semesters concluding just weeks into Advent. The day’s theme was “Preparing for Advent with Mary.”
More than 30 women from local universities attended the event, which Tran said was “a unique and beautiful opportunity for the college women to (prepare for Advent and) meet one another, pray together and grow in our faith with Mary as our model.”
For the college students McMullin and Tran minister to, Advent "comes at an extremely busy time," McMullin said.
"Advent is a time to pause and slow down. It is reflective," she said. "We try to create an atmosphere of quiet that is both for study, but also to pause amidst the crazy. With the Women's Brunch, we tried to carve that time before hand to let us experience the joy of community in the Lord while connecting to Mary who ponders, doesn't understand everything, and waits. These are important movements both physically and spiritually."
The point of the Day of Reflection, as well as Advent McMullin said, was to offer a space for women to gather, slow down and spend time together.
During Advent, McMullin said "we need the permission to stop and be present to mystery, or sometimes, we need to be told to do it. Unfortunately, it is so difficult to do this on our own. Advent Sunday readings, rituals, and even the mood teaches us to wait with and for the Lord."
In a culture of instant posts, replies and views, she said "this can bring anxiety at first, but when we realize we can trust, then there is peace. We are actually not responsible for everything and do not have to respond or post about everything."
‘LOVE AND GOOD WORKS’
In his letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul writes: “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.”
Prayer lives steeped in the Advent season should spur the faithful to do good works, whether it be giving time through acts of service or financial donations to organizations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, San José Clinic or Catholic Charities.
Each social services organization hosts volunteer events throughout the Advent and Christmas season, which offer great ways to help others as a family, a group of friends, or even as an individual.
Consider volunteering at a St. Vincent de Paul Society food fair, parish food pantry or clothing donation center.
At Catholic Charities, the 26th annual ‘Share Your Blessings’ Christmas gift campaign is underway, which provides gifts to children and families in need in the Greater Houston community, no matter what faith tradition.
The campaign ensures families who otherwise could not afford gifts for their children and loved ones like elder, senior adults encounter the joy of Christmas on Christmas day.
Also, while online shopping, consider adding the Archdiocese, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, San José Clinic or Catholic Charities to AmazonSmile options or grocery store shopper cards. With each purchase, companies will donate a portion of sales to the chosen organization.
In addition to parish-hosted giving trees, which sponsor families in need, consider choosing items off Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s shopping wish list as a family which will help serve the basic needs of those who need help during Advent and Christmas time.
POPE: ADVENT A TIME FOR PEACE
In 2018, Pope Francis said that Advent season is a time of preparation for the coming of the Prince of Peace and not a time of making war with those around you.
As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they must also reflect on what they do in their daily lives to become “artisans of peace,” the pope said in a Dec. 2018 homily.
“What do I do to help peace in the world?” he asked. “Do I always make some excuse to go to war, to hate, to talk about others? That’s warfare! Am I meek? Do I try to build bridges?”
Christians must also seek to build peace within the family because “there is so much sadness in families, many struggles, many small wars, so much disunity at times” and in the world.
“May the Lord prepare our hearts for the Christmas of the Prince of Peace” by preparing everyone to do their part: “to pacify my heart, my soul, pacify my family, school, neighborhood and workplace” and to become “men and women of peace,” the pope said.
Two days earlier, the pope said Advent is a time to purify one’s focus, remembering that Jesus came into the world to save people from sin, that each person will stand before him at the end of his or her life and that Jesus will come again.
Christians can turn Christmas into a “pagan” or “mundane” holiday by focusing on the gifts and the tree rather than on the birth of Jesus and His promise to come again, he said.
The pope focused on the attitudes of vigilance and prayer that should characterize the Advent season and preparations for Christmas.
“If we think of Christmas in a consumeristic climate, looking at what we can buy to do this or that, as a mundane holiday, then Jesus will pass by and we will not find Him.
– Catholic News Service contributed to this story.