I don’t mean to sound bitter, but this happens every year. For my entire four-week span, I am largely … ignored. I am, please recall, an entire season. I’m four whole weeks long — some years, nearly five; more than half the length of Lent and with no fasting or abstinence required. I have my own colors — two of them, in fact — and my own music. I get some of the best readings in the entire Bible. By the time I pass the torch to the 12 Days of Christmas, I’ve been short enough that I haven’t worn out my welcome but long enough that you could really sink your teeth into me. If you were paying attention, that is.
But no. By about Halloween — earlier if you frequent the big-box craft stores full of plastic poinsettias and more Christmas craft projects than you could do in a lifetime — the entire country is already breaking the speed limit trying to get to Christmas. A consumer’s Christmas. Thanksgiving only gets any notice because the food is so good people can eat their way into fourteen hours of shopping on Black Friday.
Now, I didn’t come here to whine, so I’m sorry if I sound all attitude-y. And I don’t expect the whole world to stop and take notice of me. Well, not yet, anyhow. For now, I want to start small. If I could just get a few more of you people at Notre Dame to show me some love, it’d be a start. Trust me, Christmas means so much more when you’ve spent some time (four weeks, say) with me first.
I am the season that’s just about the exact opposite of the “brand identity” the retailers, the economists, the entertainers and the pop culture have developed for Christmas. Come on, give me a chance and I’ll help you see that we all need a little time to allow God to transform our hearts, to prepare our lives for the coming of Christ. He came as an infant 2,000 years ago and we will celebrate that. We also believe that Christ lives in the world now, in the poor, the vulnerable, the victims of terrorism, war and poverty, and that he will come again to bring about the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
Maybe you’ve already friended me, so you know what the world is missing when it blows right by me to get to Christmas. Go tell a few people. Invite them to an Advent prayer or reconciliation service. Put some Advent music on your iPod (there’s actually a lot of it, you know). Go to Mass more often or read the daily readings of the Church (http://www.usccb.org/nab/). It just doesn’t get any better than the selections from Isaiah chosen for almost every day of Advent.
Waiting is very underrated. People are too used to speed, and you know, you get way too impatient with anything slow. But don’t forget that half the fun of a big event is the windup, the anticipation, the waiting. I am the season of waiting, and yet most of you just race to decorate for and celebrate Christmas as early as possible. So I’m here to ask you, please, slow down. Christmas can wait. Get truly ready for Christmas by hanging out with — ahem — me for a while. Otherwise, Christmas will come and you won’t be ready. Oh, sure, you’ll have turned in your papers and taken your finals; maybe you’ll have all your presents wrapped, but will your heart be ready to welcome Christ the Lord?
After you slow down, quiet down. I am the season that calls us to “Prepare the way of the Lord,” but those preparations get drowned out by too many other noises. Get away from the ads for free shipping and deep discounts, from the super-intense group study sessions, even from the Grinch, Charlie Brown and your favorite Christmas carols. Go to your hall chapel or the Basilica or the Grotto and enjoy the silence. Walk around the lakes, which are pretty cool even when the weather’s not great.
The people of Israel, who also waited for the coming of the Lord, hoped that he would deliver them from oppression, from poverty, exile and pagan rulers. They asked John the Baptist what they could do to prepare. His response, which you’ll hear when you listen to the gospel on my third Sunday, seems a perfect reminder of how we too can best prepare while we wait for the Lord to come: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Are you there, world? It’s me, Advent.
This week’s Faith Point was written by Kate Barrett, director of the Emmaus Program. She can be reached at [email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.