In this season of Advent, which is a time of waiting in which we are to prepare ourselves to welcome once again the comforting mystery of the Incarnation and the light of Christmas, it is important to reflect on Christian hope. As I mentioned in my homily last weekend, HOPE is the theme word in our scriptures this C cycle of readings. It is important because hope never disappoints. Optimism disappoints, but hope does not. In our troubled times that are violent and filled with anger we have need of hope. We may feel discouraged because we are powerless and seems like there is nothing we can do. We cannot abandon our hope because God is beside us, God walks with us. God has not abandoned us, because God, with his love, walks with us. The birth of the Savior is the hope that pierces and ends violence and hatred. He brings joy, happiness and hope.
The decorating, the parties, the gifts, the cards we send, the special foods we bake, these are all ways in which we may prepare to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. As we have begun this new Church liturgical year, make the Sunday Eucharist a priority in your life. Only then can you/we put Christ first in your/our lives. Otherwise it is simply happy holidays, give me presents and get this silly tree out of the living room on December 26th. Without gathering around the Lord’s Table, without Christ in our lives on a regular basis, we really have nothing to celebrate on December 25th.
Just as our Advent prayers and Scripture readings are to prepare us for Christmas, so also should our Advent decorations lead us to the celebration of Christmas. The blue violet color of Advent can become the background for Christmas. Using ribbon or material shot through with gold can be enhanced in the Christmas season. The purples can be added to with golds or silvers. Greenery can be left unlit through Advent and then become aglow during the Christmas season. Regardless, as we celebrate Advent this year, we are called as God’s holy people to open our hearts, individually and community, to the reality of Jesus Christ.
In the Catholic Church before Vatican II, Christmas was the only time that Mass was allowed to be held at midnight. This was because in the early church it was believed that Jesus was born at midnight, although there has never been any proof of this! Although many churches have midnight services on Christmas Eve, we will continue to celebrate our major Christmas Eve Mass at 11:00pm finishing around midnight. It makes getting up and celebrating Christmas Day Masses in the morning much easier!