Stay awake this Advent

1st Sunday Advent
Year B
3 Dec 2017
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

This weekend marks the start of the season of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year; Year B in the three year cycle. Advent is a uniquely special season in the year in which we are encouraged to reflectively re-evaluate our faith and the status of our spiritual relationship with God.

But the reality is that these next few weeks of Advent approaching Christmas are for many of us chaotic, stressful and taxing. Traffic, crowds, busy shopping centres, presents to buy, visiting family, Christmas lunch to plan, holiday arrangements to finalise, stretched budgets and frazzled nerves.

If we don’t make time to include some spiritual activity in Advent, the season will simply pass us by and before we know it, Easter will be upon us; and then winter and then another spring. Spiritually, we will have slept through it all. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus forewarns us about this very possibility: “Stay awake!” he says because we do not know how many seasons or even days we have available to us in this life to know, love and serve God.

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and spiritual preparation. The season anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives; past, present and future; in the flesh as a baby in Bethlehem, in our hearts every day and the Eucharist, and in glory at the end of time.

Advent is a time of hope.

We renew our hope by remembering that on that first Christmas night, God in the person of the baby Jesus became one of us to reveal God’s love for us and we renew our hope for a future time when Christ will come again. When we participate in the Mass, we give thanks that our hopes for a Messiah have been fulfilled and we profess our faith in our hope that is yet to be fulfilled; “we awaited the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

It’s a new year.
It’s a time to look back at that which has past and to look to the changes we want to make in the future.

But nothing will change in our hearts this Advent unless we consciously decide to make this season spiritually meaningful and significant.

There are a number of Advent traditions that can help keep us spiritually awake over these next few weeks.

We lit the first candle in the Advent wreath at the beginning of Mass and we could have a wreath at home. A few years ago I spent the week before Christmas in Vienna and I remember well that every shop, hotel and apartment in the city centre had an Advent wreath displayed prominently in a window or in the foyer.
The wreath is shaped in a circle and has no beginning or end – symbolizing the eternity of God’s love for us and eternal life that Christ has promised us.
The green branches remind us that Christ’s love remains fresh and strong even in the face of life’s most difficult challenges.

The candles representing the four Sundays of Advent represent the hope, peace, joy and love we desire as we anticipate Christmas.
We could keep an Advent calendar in our homes perhaps prompting a brief reflection each day on our eager expectation of the joy of Christmas.

From next weekend we’ll have the Nativity crib in the church and we could have a Nativity scene in our homes; perhaps a moment’s reflection on the crib each day will help keep us spiritually awake.

Every week for the next three weeks, we have an Advent activity planned in the church. We can make an effort to fit these services into our diaries:

  • Tuesday evening this week at 6.30pm we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes; only 30 minutes
  • On Wednesday next week at 7pm we have an introduction to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary after which we’ll pray the Rosary together; probably no longer than 45 minutes
  • On Wednesday 20th at 7pm we have a penitential service. Advent is a time for reflecting on our weaknesses, our temptations and our struggles with sin; a time to place ourselves humbly in the redeeming grace and mercy of Our Lord. A time to let Christ’s light shine into the dark corners of our lives.

Here are a few other ideas for Advent:

  • If there’s an area of spiritual growth with which we are struggling, acknowledge it and pray for the courage and discipline to change.
  • If we find ourselves captive to thoughts, words or deeds that distance us from God, confess them and start again
  • If we’ve become estranged from someone we love (or perhaps loved), ask Our Lord to help us find the path to reconciliation
  • While we are shopping for our ourselves and our families we could remember those who have so much less than we do and buy something also for them
  • Our focus at Christmas is usually very much on our own families, on the people we love, we could remember in our prayers and in our charity those who have no one to love them
  • Is it too much to add just one decade of the Rosary, to our daily schedules? One decade takes about 3 minutes to pray.
  • Or maybe we could include a weekday Mass in our schedule?
    The frenetic rush to Christmas is upon us.

We cannot escape the traffic, the impatient crowds, the shopping frenzy and the piped Christmas Carols. But we do not have to be completely captive to this madness nor should we allow it to blunt our spiritual awareness of this special season.

For a moment or two every day through Advent we can remind ourselves that we are in a time of waiting, watching and hoping; hoping that when Our Lord comes, we will not be found fast asleep.

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