It’s the beginning of November and already stores are displaying Christmas merchandise and playing tinny-sounding Christmas carols until you want to scream. It’s annoying at best—and, for those of us who are Christians, it verges on the sacrilegious. What happened to Advent, to a period of sober preparation for the coming of the Messiah? Why does Christmas have to be identified with the materialism that Jesus taught us to eschew?
We’re not going to escape the consumption that surrounds us, and we all in fact do want to give thoughtful gifts to friends and family to mark Jesus’ birthday. But there are ways to make sure that the materialism of the season doesn’t override its spiritual significance, and the key to accessing them is through planning.
To that end, we’ve put together a free Put Jesus First: Advent & Christmas Planning Guide that will help alleviate the stress of the season and allow you to focus on what matters most. You can download it here.
What’s it all about?
The word Advent means “arrival” or “approach.” For thousands of years, humanity waited for the Messiah who would come to redeem humanity and restore its relationship with God; the books of the Hebrew Bible nearly sing with yearning for this event.
Catholics connect the coming of Christ as a baby in Bethlehem to Christ’s second coming, so we are experiencing that yearning both as a commemoration of a past event and in anticipation of a future one. Advent is a time for us to recognize our spiritual longing for God and to be drawn into an ever-deepening relationship with him.
So Advent is a season of:
- Joyful expectation
- Prayerful penance
- Spiritual preparation
You’ll notice the second item in that list: prayerful penance. Advent has been called a “smaller Lent,” and is as important a season as the one leading up to the resurrection. We don’t often associate penance with Advent, and yet there’s a strong current of thought saying that it should be part of our preparation for whatever lies ahead. We prepare for the Eucharist through the sacrament of reconciliation, through some penance that breaks down the barrier of sin between us and God. So we should spend no less time and energy in our preparation for Jesus’ birth.
The early Church, the Church of the first century, had three “pillars” of faith: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
In the next few weeks we’ll look at how each of these pillars will help you put Jesus first this Advent and Christmas.
Remember to download our free Put Jesus First: Advent & Christmas Planning Guide filled with even more ideas for putting Jesus first.