Emmitsburg Council of Churches

It's Advent, not Christmas!

Father John J. Lombardi

"Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Rm. 12:2

A married couple, who had a party last week to welcome people into their new home, were chided for calling this event an "Advent Party." Why not call it a Christmas Party? - the thinking went, after all, it's Christmas, isn't it?

No! At the risk of being labeled "spiritual dinosaurs," holy Mother Church wisely gives us this time of to PREPARE for Christmas-NOT celebrate it-just as the Virgin Mary needed nine-months to prepare for Jesus' birth For centuries Catholic Christians have been using the Advent Season to fast, pray, make "crooked paths straight" by confessing sins, serving others, and living a simpler (and hopefully!) quieter life, so as to fully welcome the Baby Jesus, and thereby authentically celebrate His birth!

Think: If we're concentrating on celebrating Christmas already, before it comes, then this avails less time to prepare as the Church counsels. If we're excessively giving "Christmas parties," gifts and decorating trees and homes way in advance -especially WITHOUT spiritual preparation, then, Are we really celebrating Advent?

Think again: would you give an engaged couple a wedding party before they were married? Would a football team enter into regular season without a rugged training camp first?

Whatever happened to gentle progressions, preparations and spiritual anticipations of events before they occur-so as to deeply celebrate when the foreshadowed event takes place? It seems with some premature celebrating we have lost wise practices of the Church--and this wisdom is counter-cultural!

Instead of a "Bah-Humbug" attitude-think like some holy people have done by providing holy Advent and Christmas activities:

  • A homeschooling mother patiently (and persistently) "held off" her children by waiting to go out, to explore and "forest" a "Christmas tree" until later in Advent. Think: it will then last later into the actual Christmas season!
  • A pilgrim recently counseled her children: think less of money and material gifts and more on giving the "gift of yourself" in deeds of charity…That's exactly what Jesus did!
  • Make a "spiritual bouquet"-gift for loved ones: offer up some prayers, a fast or sacrifice, or a "holy hour"- time in prayer before Jesus in the Tabernacle-and make a card for them relating your gift.
  • Time, talent, treasure: give one of these to a poor, sick or dying person-someone "who cannot pay you back". Think: this would be like the Gift of the Incarnation!
  • Wait:…wait to decorate and prepare your house and tree, more closely to Christmas itself. Think: a loving family would make "last-minute", detailed preparations for an expectant mother, near the actual birth of the child, to be fully ready, and thereby not expend needless energy beforehand.
  • St. Nicholas-he was actually a real man, a bishop who lived in fourth-century Turkey. He lived an austere, Christ-centered life, giving generous gifts to the poor, often costing himself comforts. He followed Jesus even when it was not popular. Learn about this saint and the reason why we have gift-giving.
  • Consider: having a "St. Nicholas party" instead of another kind. Plan festivity and joy and spiritual gift-giving, and tell friends and children about the origin of all this - "Jesus is the reason for the season".

Being a Christian in today's material world will bring disruption and difficulty. At times we yearn for a "John the Baptist-type," a spiritually bold leader to change and inspire us-- why not you? Especially at this time of year: be bold, put Christmas on hold - take advantage of Advent, and then really celebrate Christmas!

QUOTE of THE WEEK: "Prayer is the living relationship of the children with their Father who is good beyond measure, with His Son and the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Kingdom is the 'union of the entire holy and royal Trinity with the whole human spirit.'"

Read other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi