Advent is God’s “prime time”

Categories: Advent,Ask Father Michael

Q. How can families make Advent more meaningful?

A. The liturgical season of Advent most powerfully focusses the church’s attention on time: the many centuries during which Israel, God’s chosen people, awaited the coming of the Messiah, and now, the time (how long?) between his first coming and his final coming. Advent reminds us that while God entrusted the material world to us mortals, God didn’t do the same with time: it remains God’s and God’s alone, on loan to us. Reflecting on how we use time is a good Advent activity for the universal church and the domestic church, the family. Behold some “timely” suggestions:

  • Think about time and how your family uses it. Do outside events and activities, even worthwhile ones, rob your family of time for yourselves? Do you spend more time preparing for the future than enjoying the present? Is your family, or some member of it, waiting for something? How are you waiting for it? Patiently? Eagerly? Fearfully? For our waiting in a long line at the checkout counter is not the same as our waiting for the birth of a baby. Yet waiting is what we must do if we are to savor some of the best things in human life. Advent rehearses us in how to wait for new revelations of God’s plan for us during the Christmas season and all during our lives.
  • Mark time. Light candles on the Advent wreath or open doors on an Advent calendar or add an ornament to your Christmas tree each day. Thus you make visible the passing of time. Perhaps your family could make these rituals part of a daily meal. And if your family doesn’t gather around your table even once during the day, why not put extra effort into making this happen during Advent?second-clipart-7162069
  • Devote time to the Word of God. Discover the riches of the Advent Sunday Scriptures by reading them aloud and discussing them before the Sunday Eucharist. Explore their images and stories. How are the people in these readings, or the people to whom they are addressed, like you? What hopes and fears do you share with them during your days of waiting? Let the Advent Scripture readings shape your personal and family prayer during this season.
  • Spend time with each other doing old things and new things, like going outdoors and being lifted up in spirit by the bright stars in the winter sky and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate afterward as if for the first time; or baking holiday cookies together (enough for your family and some to share — bet you can’t wait until Christmas to sample them!).
  • Make time for someone you have forgotten or ignored (like that Olympic-class complainer at work or that shy classmate at school) or for something you have been slow or unwilling to do (like being reconciled with someone who holds a grudge against you). What better way could there be to begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy than by trying to be at peace with everyone?
  • Turn time into matter; that is, into what really matters. Alchemists of old tried to turn sand into gold, but couldn’t. Advent invites us to take the sand in God’s hourglass and realize what a precious gift it is: “God’s good time.” There’s no time to waste as we await the glorious coming of Jesus Christ, the One to whom all time belongs. Merry Christmas!