Welcome, to the season of Advent! This is a time of great anticipation, of hope, of joy. This is when we prepare our hearts and our minds to accept the greatest gift of all: Our Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate His birth to the Beloved Virgin Mary. We celebrate His death and resurrection which grant us joyful anticipation of His return to reign forever and ever. We rejoice that God came among us, born to the Blessed Virgin as a human, and forged the path for us to our sactification and eternal life by overcoming death!
It is easy to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. We work all day, we shop in the evenings and we plan our Christmas day with family and friends. It is a stressful time for many of us. There is so much to do and so little time! By the time Christmas day arrives we are sapped of energy and sometimes a lot of the joy has been stripped away by the panic and stress. This year, put aside the adult worries and, as Jesus said, “Become like little children…”
I would like to invite you and your family to experience Christmas in a more relaxed and energizing way! Yes, you can make it to Christmas day in good health and sound mind! Take a few deep cleansing breaths and decide that this year you will shift the focus of Christmas back on Jesus. Remember that saying, “Jesus is the reason for the Season!” Christmas isn’t about giving it is about receiving the greatest gift that God gave to the entire world. It’s about spreading peace, and love.
Have you noticed the change in the liturgical environment? Purple is the dominant color. Purple is a penitent color (you see it again during Lent). Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare ourselves, our hearts and minds, to accept the greatest gift, Jesus, who was born the sacrificial lamb for all mankind. We prepare ourselves for His return to rule for all eternity. This is also a time for spreading the love of Christ through works and alms giving.
There is an Advent wreath on the Altar. It is steeped in symbolisms. Aside from the light which represents Christ because Christ is “the Light that came into the world” to dispel the darkness of sin and to radiate the truth and love of God (cf. John 3:19-21), the circle of evergreen represents eternal life; seed pods, nuts or cones used to decorate the wreath represent resurrection and fruits the nourishing fruitfulness of the Christian life! The three purple candles are representative of our penitent attitude during Advent and our preparation for the coming of both the infant and the resurrected Christ. The pink or rose candle is lit on the 3rd Sunday, Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete (Gaw-day’-tay) means Rejoice! The coming of the Christ child is imminent…and we rejoice at the birth of our Savior and the return of the risen Christ! Rose colored vestments are worn on Gaudete Sunday. White colored vestments are worn on Christmas day.
There will be Advent companion books available for a small donation at Holy Trinity. Additionally you can learn more about the season of Advent and the use of Advent wreaths in celebration at http://www.churchyear.net/advent.html.
Put together an Advent wreath and beginning the First Sunday of Advent light the 1st purple candle, say an advent prayer (you can also include a scripture reading) and all join in for a chorus of “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. Do this each evening as part of your dinner prayer time lighting the 1st purple candle each day that week. On the 2nd Sunday of Advent you will light 2 purple candles and do so each night that week. On the 3rd Sunday (Gaudete Sunday) light 2 purple candles and the PINK or ROSE candle. On the 4th Sunday you will light all four. Blow out the candles after dinner. On Christmas day replace all the candles with 4 white ones, symbolizing Christ. (Note: you should bless the advent wreath before lighting it the first time, or as soon as you can during Advent. For Advent Prayers & blessing instructions visit http://www.churchyear.net/adventprayers.html)
Mark a long candle with 25 hash marks. Each day burn the candle to the next hash mark and say an Advent prayer, read scripture and sing as above.
Instead of a sweet behind each day, have the gospel reading for each day. You can obtain the daily readings for Advent from the website above or visit www.americancatholic.org and search “Advent Calendar” for some great readings!
Remember that there are a lot of people, young and old, who do not have even the bare essentials in life let alone a home, and a Christmas tree and presents to open on Christmas morning. Let’s help our children become good stewards by teaching them the joy of giving to someone who is in need. Take a moment and read Matthew 25:31-46. Whatever we do for someone in need we do for Jesus. Each family member can bring a food, coat or blanket contribution to church each Sunday during Advent and place it in the receptacle in the Narthex. If there is a gift tree, choose and ornament or two and fulfill the specific need of someone this Christmas. Each time you pass the Salvation Army kettles this season give them your loose change. This is a good time for the kids to clean out their rooms and donate all those toys that they have outgrown in anticipation of new toys they may receive this Christmas. Stuffed animals are a real comfort to small children who need something to hug and hold.
There is no way to repay the sacrifice that God made for us, His only begotten Son, our sacrificial lamb. We must be truly grateful in our hearts and live in that gratefulness as Christ Jesus commanded us. Love one another, as I have loved you.