This week, as we begin the season of Advent, we focus on waiting well throughout the many seasons of life.
By: Emily Borman
As a child, I didn’t quite understand the meaning or purpose of Advent. I remember it as a season full of excitement for the impending arrival of Santa Claus and the gifts he would bring. I was clearly waiting for presents, candy canes and Christmas cookies rather than Jesus.
Thankfully, later I was enlightened by a good homily. Now my adult understanding is that Advent is a time of waiting and preparing to celebrate both the anniversary of our Lord’s coming and our Lord’s anticipated second coming.
When my children were young, I tried to ensure that they had a better understanding than I had as a child. I wanted them to know that although “Santa Claus was coming to town,” we were waiting for our Lord during Advent.
As a family, we practiced traditions that I naively thought were primarily for the kids. We prayed with an Advent wreath and candles. We set up our Nativity scene in early Advent, but we hid baby Jesus because He hadn’t been born yet. We put the three kings in another room because they were still traveling to Bethlehem to visit the infant Jesus. Each day one of the kids would help the kings along on their journey to the stable. Baby Jesus arrived on Christmas Eve. The kings followed. Santa Claus would bring them each three gifts symbolizing the gifts of the three kings. We read “Jotham’s Journey” and other advent stories together, the list goes on….
The kids are all in college now and my husband and I are left to observe most of Advent on our own. I thought that meant that we wouldn’t need to stage the arrival of the three kings and baby Jesus in our Nativity scene. Surely by now we know who we are waiting for?
Well, based on my behavior over the last three days, those traditions were as helpful to me as they were the children! Instead of waiting and preparing for our Lord, I have been busy. My inner Martha came out and I have been cooking, cleaning, shopping and organizing for Christmas. None of those activities are wrong in themselves. However, allowing them to consume me has left me little time to wait on Our Lord. In the absence of reminders, my behavior shifted back to my childish grasp of Advent. My intentions were good. I was trying to get all of the work done so that I could rest and wait prayerfully; but alas the work is never done!
So tonight I will pull out our Nativity scene. The three kings will go in another room and baby Jesus will be hidden. Maybe, while I’m waiting for our Lord, I’ll come up with a few new “adult” traditions.
Advent is here. What a marvelous time in which to renew your desire, your nostalgia, your real longing for Christ to come — for him to come every day to your soul in the Eucharist. The Church encourages us: Ecce veniet! — He is about to arrive!
—Saint Josemaria Escriva, The Forge, 548
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