Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, begins the new liturgical year. What better way to conclude the liturgical season than with the celebrations of Christ the King and Thanksgiving and begin it anew with Advent in preparation for the Christmas Season. Echoing the divine praise of the Angels to the shepherds, “Glory to god in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:8-14 cf)
Advent is an opportune time to echo this praise as we prepare our mind and heart for the celebration of the greatest spiritual and historical event that has ever taken place on the face of the Earth, where Heaven and Earth touch and the Savior is born! The season of Advent is a time to allow God’s amazing grace of Love, Peace, and Joy penetrate our hearts in such a way that it overflows within us, inspiring us to share this contagious Love, Peace, and Joy with those we encounter.
If for some reason this amazing Christmas Love, Peace and Joy seem to be a vague childhood memory, we should stop, take a step back and see why. Are we truly preparing for Christmas or rather are we preparing for the secular Xmas? The secular Xmas is the commercialized celebration where we are left feeling tired and exhausted with the mad frenzy of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the hustle and bustle of shopping, card writing, visiting Santa with the children, preparing for parties, going to parties, opening up gifts, returning gifts, and then the day after the secular Xmas is ‘over’, the Xmas tree is out on the curb and decorations are stored for the following year. Not very inspirational!
Celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, on the other hand, is the Spiritualized celebration where we experience “the good news of great joy and peace … a Savior is born!” The wisdom of the Church gives us a time to prepare for Christmas. It is called Advent. Advent is an amazing time to help us refocus on the true meaning of life. When we allow this Christmas Love, Peace, and Joy enter into our hearts, the opposite effect occurs from just celebrating the secular Xmas.
The true Christmas Spirit brings about:
- An unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment.
- A loss of interest in judging other people.
- A loss of interest in conflict.
- A loss of the ability to worry.
- Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation.
- Feelings of connectedness with others and nature.
- Frequent attacks of smiling.
- An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to extend it.
Here are a few simple yet powerful devotions to help you experience this contagious Christmas Joy:
- Set-up an Advent Wreath in the house.
- Set-up a Nativity Scene so as to contemplate this great mystery of the Incarnation.
- Use the daily reflections from the Advent Blue Book we handed out at Mass.
The words of Pope Francis in the Pastoral Exhortation, ‘Joy of the Gospel’ eloquently summarize the fruit of authentically living out the Advent Season. “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.”
May the blessings of this Advent Season bring us to a more intimate love encounter with Jesus Christ so that we may share the authentic Christmas gifts of Love, Peace, and Joy with others throughout the Christmas Season and the New Year.
Rev. John L. Poncini