HAPPY ADVENT
Rev. David Justin Lynch
 
This coming Sunday begins Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin verb  “advenire,” which means “to come toward, to draw near, to approach.” During Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s drawing near to us in Jesus Christ. The beginning of another Church year commences with our anticipation of the coming of Jesus as we prepare to celebrate His incarnation.  Beginning the Church year with the First Sunday in Advent is countercultural. It is out of sync with every other time structure in our lives: the academic semester, the fis­cal year, the twelve-month calendar, and the cycle of the sports seasons. It reminds us that to be a Christian sometimes requires that we not go along with what’s around us. This should not surprise Christians, as Jesus was not in sync with the world as He knew it. 
 
The Advent Season is not the Christmas Season. Advent is uniquely Advent. The secular world does not see Advent and Christmas as two different and separate seasons. Merchants would have us celebrate the so-called “Christmas Season” beginning at midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, known as “Black Friday” on which shoppers stampede into malls and department stores searching for the so-called “good deals”, activity the storeowners hope continue for at least the next thirty days. In the secular mind, Advent does not exist.  But Christians celebrate Advent during Advent, and Christmas at Christmas.  So you won’t hear Christmas carols here at Saint Cecilia’s until Christmas Eve. Over the next four weeks, you will hear and sing only the glorious music of Advent, a time the Church invites us to watchful anticipation, making our souls ready to receive Jesus, feeling joyful about His coming, and expecting a guest in our hearts who is more than we can ask or imagine.
 
Saint Cecilia’s will erect a blue Advent Tree in the nave. Note that it will be predominately blue, the color of Advent. Why do we use blue, and not purple, as many churches do? Because Advent is not a penitential season. We’ll save that for Lent. Blue instead of purple maintains the significance of Advent, in contrast to Lent, when we will use purple.  Penitence focuses on the past, as we sorrow for our sins and seek forgiveness for what we may have done wrong. Advent, however, focuses on the future rather than the past.  Advent is a season of expectant delight. Advent is a time to proclaim the good news of the incarnation and a time meditate on our relationship to Jesus going forward in the coming church year.
 
Getting ready for the coming of Jesus means strengthening our hearts to abound in love for one another. That means we must allow Jesus to come to us in every part of our life, here at Mass, at work, and home, or when we socialize with our friends. Growing in love emphasizes its dynamic aspect: to grow in love for  God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; to grow in love for Mary and for the saints, one’s family, relatives,  friends,  strangers,  the  needy,  the  sick,  and sinners of every kind. Remember that God’s compassion is what makes God holy, and as the Holy One in the midst of humanity, Jesus brings a message of compassion and healing, not condemnation and punishment. The purpose of Advent is to prepare our hearts to receive that message.
 
As we prepare for the Incarnation, or in ordinary words, while we get ready of Christmas, let us be alert for times to let Jesus come into our lives in doing such simple things as buying some food for a hungry person, holding a door for someone who has trouble walking, and keeping a lonely person company. It also means being alert for the forces of evil which would rather we not do those things. Our alertness must encompass a total spiritual awareness of who and where we are, what is going on around us, and discerning where Jesus is in present as we go about our business. Growing in love is what will best prepare us to receive Jesus and to love Jesus. The love Jesus gives us is what excites us about the coming of Jesus.