Admit it. Even grumpy, anti-Christian atheists deep down love Christmas. There’s just something beautiful and joyful about this time of year. Songs, lights, smiles, gifts, love, all swirling around the greatest event of human history (the Incarnation of our Lord) like a snow shower. It is precisely this joy, this expectation of Christmas that fuels the season of Advent.
But Advent is a season of penance, of confessing our sins and fixing our lives. It’s like Lent, but shorter. Brevity, of course, does not mean less important, especially with liturgical seasons. Just as we prepare for Easter by prayer and fasting, so also we prepare for Christmas by a similar method of prayer and fasting.
But isn’t penance and fasting, like, the opposite of joy?
Ever made someone feel bad? I don’t just mean hurt the person’s feelings. I mean really made the person so upset that he (or she) didn’t want to talk to you, as if you were nothing to each other. Remember that feeling of separation, that gulf between you and the other? If you truly cherish that person, you will do pretty much anything for him/her. You would beg him (or her) to welcome you back into his/her life, make “I’m sorry” your personal refrain, even giving up something you love for the sake of the reunion. So it is with Advent. We have separated ourselves from God by our sins and our selfishness. We have done worse things to God than to any of our friends or spouses or anyone else we know. But He comes to us. He wants us to meet Him. He comes through the liturgical seasons, and with great joy we await His second coming by celebrating His first arrival. There is a joy in the expectation, and just as there is that hint of joy, that hope for celebration in reconciling with a loved one, so also there is a more complete joy in our preparation for Christmas.
Want to delve more into this joyful season of Advent and Christmas? Scott Hahn, one of the greatest American Catholic writers and speakers, has a new book out, Joy to the World, which delves into the Christmas story and how we can draw deeper into the Christmas mystery.
It’s part scholarly analysis, part meditation on the stories and heroes of that first Christmas. I watched a recent interview with Dr. Hahn on EWTN Live wherein he emphasizes this idea of joy in waiting for Christ, this joy in preparing for Christmas through Advent. Give the book a whirl and, if you want, buy it (or any of his books!). It’s on my Christmas list.
And if you have any questions about anything, send them along.