Christmas music is all around us, decorations are to be found in every shop and the premature festive spirits seems to have been imposed on us once again by the consumerist society we live in. Every year Christmas seems to start earlier. At least now that Halloween is getting bigger we know it means that Christmas can’t start before the 1st of November but that seems to be as good as it’s going to get.
1.Have an eschatological Advent
Advent is a game of two halves, the first 15 days look forward to the second coming of Christ in glory at the end of time and the last nine days (novena) looks forward to Jesus’s birth. Use the Sunday readings to speak about the second coming. Are we looking forward to it or are we afraid? Do we say Maranatha (come Lord Jesus) or not yet?
Advent is a time of waiting, watching, preparing. There needs to be a sense of anticipation of ‘we’re not there yet - but soon’. The Advent wreath is helpful, keep the candles lit whenever the family is together. Advent calendars work as well. When you put up the family crib make sure Jesus is left out until after midnight Mass. Ideally the house should be decorated in earnest after the 16th when the focus shifts from the second coming at the end of time to the first coming in Bethlehem.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the three weapons that the Church gives us to help us to defeat the world, the flesh and the devil. Lent and Advent are special times for us to do battle to purify ourselves in readiness for Christ’s coming. It’s a time to increase the intensity of our prayer. We’re planning to teach a new Marian prayer to our children, the Alma Redemptoris Mater a lesser known prayer than the Salve Regina but one the Church has said during Advent and Christmas for a thousand years.
Fasting is hard but sometimes feasting seems even more difficult. At Easter the Church asks us to feast for 50 days so 12 should be a doddle. However, when you’ve been celebrating as if it’s Christmas from some time in November then by the time Christmas actually starts it’s all getting a bit boring. So hold something back for those twelve days, we always ensure that certain types of food cannot be touched until Christmas has really started. In our house Panettone and Pandoro are off limits until the 25th. Make time for your family throughout from Christmas to Epiphany. Keep the decorations looking beautiful. Eat dinner from your best china, light a candle when you have dinner, whatever your favourite Christmas treats are make sure you have enough to keep you going. The Church gives us some amazingly rich feasts during that period, the Holy Family, the Holy Innocents, Mary Mother of God celebrate them all! Is it all a bit much? Well it’s a birthday unlike any other, the birth of our Saviour, of God incarnate so whatever celebration we can plan is less than it deserves.
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