You may have seen this in Fr. Louis’ First Sunday of Advent bulletin article, and I couldn’t agree more that this is indeed, the most wonderful time of the year. In 1963, Andy Williams released his holiday hit “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Today it continues to top the charts during the month of December around the world because It holds many lovely sentiments of the joy of being together with family and friends while reminding us of the Christmas traditions of caroling, decorating and baking delicious homemade treats. Funnily enough, however, for Christians these are not Christmas traditions as much as they are Advent traditions.
The season of Advent has had a few variations over time. Around the 4th and 5th centuries, the Advent weeks were a time of great preparation for those seeking to be baptized into the Christian faith. The word Advent is Latin for “coming” and was viewed as the time spent coming closer to God. It wasn’t until the 6th century when Advent became linked to the idea of preparing for the second coming of Christ. Modern day Christians, though, more commonly observe the season of Advent as the time of renewing the hope first expressed at the birth of Christ in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.
In the Catholic Church especially, the articles used during the season of Advent are meant to incite joy in believers while at the same time help believers practice patience. Perhaps you can recall a few items from the parish or your home that serve this double purpose?
The Advent Wreath—a circle of boughs enclosing four candles to count down the Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. (If you are unable to join us in church at this time, please see the lighting of our Advent Wreath during Mass on the church live-stream.)
The Advent Calendar—a special door to open for each day of Advent counting up to Christmas Day. (View additional Advent Resources, including a downloadable Advent Calendar.)
The Advent Readings—daily reflections to root one’s experience in the Scriptures: Old Testament prophecies followed by Nee Testament fulfillments of those prophecies. (See all daily readings here.)
Carols and Hymns—songs that incorporate the infancy narratives of Jesus’ birth: The First Noel, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Hark the Herald Angel Sing, Silent Night, Away in a Manger. (Hear favorite hymns and carols interspersed with readings from the Bible at this year’s virtual presentation of Nine Lessons and Carols.)
All of these faith-filled elements help us live our faith and yet many people see them as decorations, just part of this time of year, Christmas effects.
This Advent, may the “coming” of this season focus on Jesus and all that Jesus means to you, your faith, your relationship with God and others and the good you can do for the world at large. If we are each able to do that, this will truly be the most wonderful time of the year, and for all the right reasons!