Rounding the second Sunday of Advent, and on the beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, we held our annual Advent By Candlelight. These evenings of reflection for women during seasons of Advent (and Lent) provide women with a peace-filled fellowship in an elegant, candle-lit atmosphere.
Fr Peter Hopkins, LC, joined us this year, starting off the evening with a blessing of Advent wreaths and a formation talk, which enlightened all of us to the difference between watching and waiting for Christ during Advent. Here is a taste of Fr Peter’s talk (adapted from my memory and from notes provided by our lovely Ms LaLa).
- Watching Vs Waiting: Waiting is passive, while watching is an active verb.
- Watching, (as scripture points to) implies being alert, on the ready, prepared.
- Practical Ways to WATCH for Christ’s coming this Advent:
- Have traditions that involve the Corporal Works of Mercy, such as visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.
- Be politically INCORRECT! Say MERRY CHRISTMAS! Even “Happy Holidays” is derived from “Holy Days” and answering back “Happy HOLY Days to you to!” Will bring awareness and thoughts of Christ to those around us. (Here Father Peter told the most hysterical story of Sir Thomas Massey trying to remove the word “mass” from Christmas, only to be confronted by a savvy Irishman!)
- Have religious images on our Christmas Cards
- Swap TV shows/edifying programs for ones that are faith-based or have messages of charity (Father recommended “The Fourth Wise man” which is blockbuster picture, but tells a great story).
- Visit a church nativity scene and spend time in prayer before it, contemplating it. (This was also once a penance I received from confession. It was the best penance I ever received. So much love for God, Our Creator, and the Holy Family comes out of spending time with even a picture of the nativity).
- Using the idea of Jesus’ birthday, (HE received three gifts) we can use as the perfect way to give gifts to our family, in order to avoid losing the meaning of the HOLY-day to consumerism.
- We also can use the example of the Magi in our gift giving:
- GOLD: one nicer, pleasurable item that is more “extra” or luxury, electronics, whatever. Something fun or desired.
- FRANKINCENSE: something spiritual; a book, a picture, a rosary, etc.
- MYRRH: Something practical (used to anoint Our Lord for his burial); clothing, a coat, etc.
- Pray/Sing the “O Antiphons” the eight days before Christmas. (These are a tradition in the Roman Church since at least the 8th century).
- Sing Christmas Carols with your family or go caroling, but sing songs that traditionally celebrate Christmas and Christ; not so much Frosty or Rudolph.
Other practical ideas for your family this Advent
A sister-in Christ I often refer to as “LaLa” has her family do an “Advent Prayer Tree”. She buys a small tree and her family members, big and small, offer prayers and sacrifices for a specifically named family or person. In the weeks before Christmas, she keeps mini ornaments next to the mini tree in a central place (kitchen island). People can offer a prayer or give up something meaningful for a day (fast), or do a good deed and earn an ornament to place on the tree. She also has her children and grandchildren nominate each other for an ornament to be placed on the tree. At a recent meeting we had at her house, I was standing in her kitchen, looking at the tiny tree with tiny ornaments dabbled around its branches and tears stung my eyes as she explained to me. I understood the effect this would have on someone who is really hurting, having just lost a loved one or suffering from illness. The ornaments, small but mighty, melted into pictures in my mind of kids sharing a beloved toy, a teenager folding their own laundry, a mom giving her share of the pie to her daughter, etc. Small sacrifices represented in bright-colored bulbs and stars, making that tiny tree look like it was wearing a party dress. Before Christmas, she mails or delivers the tree, accompanied by a letter explaining how her family held this particular recipient in their thoughts, words, and actions for many days. Through prayer, they obtained from a generous God the graces to float some precious soul(s) through a season that isn’t so jolly for some.
more reading: “25 great waiting quotes”