Advent has arrived, and now we look forward to celebrating the birth of the Messiah. We also prepare in anticipation for his second coming which we know not the day nor the hour. During this season of preparation, we are also pressed in from all sides by society to make this a period of hustle and bustle. Gift buying, party prep, and the stress that comes with all of this are enough to suck the joy out of the season and turn us into little Grinch’s quite quickly.
We need to slow down and take advantage of the season of Advent. We must utilize it as a season of self-reflection and improvement…somewhat of a mini-Lent with a bit more celebration mixed in. Father William Saunders has a book that is an exceptional guide in helping us achieve this. Celebrating a Merry Catholic Christmas: A Guide to the Customs and Feast Days of Advent and Christmas is the perfect resource for learning about and making Advent a prosperous season filled with faith.
The book is set up in two parts. Father Saunders leads the book off with an entire section on what the season of Advent is all about. He covers the history and origins of this liturgical season providing readers with a solid foundation of understanding. He then moves on to covering the feast days interspersed throughout the season and why we should celebrate them appropriately. These include the feast days of St. Nicholas, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and St. Lucy.
Of particular interest to me was the entire chapter on the silent but strong and faithful St. Joseph. I highly recommend reading this chapter and using St. Joseph as a role model in your own life. Playing off the theme of the season Father calls this chapter The Special Role of St. Joseph, The Silent Knight. Many Popes and Saints have given testimony to the value of St. Joseph as an advocate and protector. We would do well to follow their lead.
In the second part of the book, Father Saunders takes a look at the “smells and bells” of the season. From Christmas trees to creches and the holly, poinsettias, and candles in between, Father covers the liturgical significance of these tangible physical objects that have made their way into our celebrations. Additionally the history and hidden meaning behind such carols as The Twelve Days of Christmas and Silent Night. Rounding out the book is a thorough look at the days following Dec. 25. After all, in our faith, the 25th is only the beginning of the celebration. We still have the Feast of the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary, the Feast of the Holy Name, and The Epiphany. Add the Baptism of the Lord and the Feast of the Presentation, and we can go all the way to February 2!
Interspersed throughout the book are some ideas to incorporate into your family Advent observations to make it less secular and more faith-filled. We need this book right now. As society has slowly hijacked this season, we need to pull back and engage deeply with our faith and what the tradition of the Church has handed us. We are called to be stewards of these traditions. Make this the year you make a more concerted effort to do so.