Advent preparation can start with reconciliation

heather    It’s never a surprise when the holiday seasons begin to approach. The stores begin putting out Christmas decorations as early as the end of October or the beginning of November, and coffee shops begin with their seasonal flavors to prepare us for Christmas. All of these little signs point us toward the upcoming season and begin getting us in the mood for giving and receiving.
    But what gets us ready for Advent? This year, I began hunting for my own Advent wreath and candles to place on a table in our living room as a reminder to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming. While I could find any number of Santas, reindeer, nutcrackers, elves and other Christmas décor, I had extreme difficulty finding a small wreath to place on a table. So, I decided to make my own Advent wreath, clipping evergreen branches from some trees in our backyard.
    The next dilemma was finding the Gaudete candle (“Gaudete” is Latin for “rejoice”). Rather than a rose-colored candle, all I found were bright pink or light pink candles. Why does it seem that preparing for Advent is so difficult?
    I think the reason is that Advent seems to get forgotten. Many people think of Advent as a mini or little Lent because both are seasons of preparation, but Advent is significantly shorter than the Lenten season. Perhaps it is also forgotten because many people forget to prepare themselves for Jesus’ coming outside of their attendance of Mass on Sundays.
    My family always has had an Advent wreath that gets lit at every meal. By incorporating this ritual into our family tradition, accompanied by a family prayer, Advent may be something that becomes passed on, just like all other family traditions.
    In the readings for the last Sundays of the liturgical year, we heard from Revelation, preparing us for the second coming of Jesus. As we begin preparing ourselves for Jesus’ coming at Christmas, we should also be taking the opportunity to prepare ourselves for his second coming. By focusing on the joyful coming of Jesus into the world in our image and likeness as an infant, we can renew our desire for his eventual second coming.
    In one homily at Mass, a priest advised that we can prepare ourselves in similar ways to our Lenten preparations in the form of abstinence, either abstaining from meat on Fridays, as is done during Lent, or abstaining from eating between meals. Moreover, he requested that instead of giving him gifts for Christmas, he would prefer parishioners to take the time to go to confession and receive the sacrament of reconciliation. By doing these small penances, we can remind ourselves of our pardon from our sins and recall the reason why Jesus came into the world: to save us from our sins.
    This year, as we look forward to Christmas, try not to forget the season of Advent in the midst of holiday shopping, final exams and preparations for Christmas break. Rather than isolating Christmas as a day of giving and receiving, it is important to see Christmas in light of the preparations done over Advent.
    During this season, we must try to use this time to orient ourselves toward God’s will and patiently wait, just like the Old Testament prophets and kings, for the Incarnation of God.
    Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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