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Advent is a time for awakening to the divine mystery of Christmas

This Advent wreath decorated the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican last year. (CNS photo by Paul Haring) This Advent wreath decorated the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican last year.
“The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music
and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ.”
--Father Edward Hays

It’s amazing how fast things can be done today.

I ordered some photos from my local pharmacy through their on-line sight and was in the store picking them up 15 minutes later. Another customer came up behind me and asked about a passport photo. Five minutes later she was done, and while paying for the picture she struck up a conversation with me.

“Sometimes I think things move too fast,” she said, admitting that while she was happy her errand did not take too long, she often felt a great need to slow things down. She was especially feeling rushed into the Christmas season: “I’ve been seeing Christmas decorations and ads in the store since October so I keep thinking I’m falling behind in my preparations and need to get my tree up and my house lit as soon as possible. Then I remember we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet.”

We agreed that time is truly the thing we need to treasure if we are to hold on to the true spirit of Christmas.

In his book, “A Pilgrim’s Almanac,” Father Edward Hays, reminds us, “Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.”

It’s a beautiful thought, we might say, but how are we supposed to make it happen?

Enter Advent.

There’s no better opportunity to reclaim our time and our focus than this prayerful four-week period of spiritual preparation for the Prince of Peace, who seeks to enter not only our homes one day a year, but to live continually in our hearts.

But first we must make room.

This can happen, as Father Hays suggests, through a daily Advent examination. "Are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or
educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search
the deep, dark corners of our hearts.”

When we strive to leave the light on for Christ, we are better able to transform the commercialized Christmas that plagues us into our own experience as shepherds, kneeling in wonder with Mary and Joseph at the manger, before running with joy to all who will listen to tell
them our Savior has been born.

That’s one of the reasons why I look forward to the beginning of Advent. It’s the time we put up our large homemade manger on our front lawn. Coming home each day I am continually reminded that I am – we are – part of the Nativity story.

It helps me keep things in perspective.

Mary Morrell is a freelance writer, editor, syndicated columnist, blogger and religion consultant at Wellspring Communications. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Twitter @mreginam6.
Last modified onFriday, 25 November 2016 10:06
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