1st Sunday of Advent Reflection by Lisa Friedlander

It's Advent. I know the Christmas music started weeks ago on the radio. I know there were Christmas decorations out in the stores before my kids even went trick-or-treating. I know there are only 21 shopping days left before Christmas. But, it’s Advent, not “almost Christmas” not “the holiday season,” Advent. According to the dictionary, advent means the arrival of something important or awaited. Today is the first day of intentional waiting and anticipation for something very important to Christians, the Incarnation; God becoming flesh. We must purposefully stop and intentionally celebrate Advent; not rush through December on our way to Christmas.

Throughout the centuries and cultures, Christians have celebrated this holy season in a variety of ways. In the northern counties of England, poor women used to carry around “Advent images” two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and Mary. A halfpenny coin was expected from every one to whom these were shown and bad luck was thought to linger in the household not visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve.

In the Alpine countries of Europe, children carry a statue of Saint Joseph to a different home each night during Advent. In Finland, villagers cut pine boughs and pile them in a long green carpet into the center of the village for the Christ child.

In Sweden, Catholics celebrate the feast of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr, during Advent on December 13 where elements of light and sight, as well as the martyr’s crown, are combined in a beautiful family custom.

In Italy, bagpipe players enter Rome in the last days of Advent to play before the shrines of Mary. In Italian tradition, the shepherds played bagpipes when they came to the manager at Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus.

In Mexico, Catholics celebrate Posadas. They re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Posadas takes place over nine days, December 16 to 24, which symbolizes the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy. People go from house to house seeking lodging, but the “innkeepers” refuse to let them stay. On Christmas Eve, the travelers are finally welcomed at the last house where they celebrate the birth of Jesus.

The Advent wreath, which has German origins, symbolizes the many years from Adam to Christ in which the world awaited its Redeemer. It also represents the years that we have awaited His second and final coming. The wreath holds four candles, three purple ones lit on the penitential Sunday and a pink one for Gaudete, the joyful third Sunday of Advent. 

Whatever your family and cultural traditions are during Advent, use them as a time to reflect and pray during this holy season, use them as a concrete means of preparing your heart for Christ. 

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us “. . . Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”  Every year at this time we celebrate His coming and this routine can sometimes make us lose the feeling of joyful anticipation. However, we must hold true to the meaning of this season. We must prepare, for the Son of Man may come to us in the form of the poor needing our help, the lonely needing our love, a fellow Christian doubting his faith in need of support. We must open our hearts and be ready for Jesus, in all the ways He may present Himself to us. May you savor this time of anticipation and waiting and joyfully prepare for Jesus.

Advent Prayer
Christ our Light,
Shine in our lives with hope and promise.
Give us right vision so that we remain
attentive to this holy season.
Remind us to look for You in small acts of kindness and love.
We await Your coming with wonder.
Amen.