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Keeping Advent with Some Friends

Keeping Advent with Some Friends

The start of the Advent season usually finds me with a “divided spirit.” In my priestly and Franciscan ministry, I am thinking of the seasonal messages I want to preach about—and the preparations I need to make for my parish, our school and our Franciscan community.

My colleague in ministry, Brother Tim, has enlisted me this year, as he does every year, to help prepare the external signs of Christ’s coming—displays of nativity scenes, our large Advent wreath in church, our outdoor nativity scene with live animals and other “environmental” signs of the coming feast. Working on these externals does help me to reflect on the season.

But internally, I am often beset by the pre-Christmas anxiety that the secular side of our holidays tries to impose on me” buying the right gift, taking part in holiday parties and the temptation to compare this Christmas with Christmases past. It’s a sort of Dickens’ nightmare sometimes, in which a host of ghosts of Christmases past are ganging up on me!

That’s where the quiet, reflective Advent liturgies help. They pull me back into the story of our salvation, bring some silence and sanity into the preparations, reminding me to open up to what the Lord is doing in my life. This year, I have some “friends” to help me. This past year, I completed a book entitled Advent with the Saints. I chose a saint or biblical figure for each day of Advent. The scriptures from the Mass for that day, along with the calendar of the Church, inspired my choices.

I’m finding, as I look over what I’ve written, that these holy men and women can at least give me a few moments of quiet “communion” with God, through their lives and example. That’s making my Advent a bit different this year. (If you’d like to share my reflections, you can find my book at http://catalog.americancatholic.org/Product.aspx?ProductCode=B36132).

If any of my “divided” Advent spirituality sounds familiar to you, I hope you will let the grace of this Advent, with the saints and biblical charactes who populate this season of joyful expectation, assist you with your Christmas preparation.