Advent a Time for Spiritual & Emotional Preparation for Christmas
An Opportunity to Reflect and Enjoy the Christmas Season
Christmas is a widely anticipated holiday. We look forward to it as a day where we get together and celebrate with family and friends.
While Christmas itself is a single day, December 25th, there is also the Christmas Season or period leading up to and with festivities continuing an additional week to New Year's Day on January 1st.
The modern secular Christmas season begins with a shopping frenzy on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving (or, more recently, immediately after Thanksgiving dinner).
For many people the frenzied shopping and preparation continues up to, and sometimes including, Christmas Day.
But Christmas doesn't have to be this hectic. Christmas is a spiritual as well as secular holiday and by observing the spiritual as well as the secular we have a means of slowing down and taking time to enjoy both the spiritual and secular aspects of the holiday.
Take Time to Relax and Enjoy Christmas
Advent is the period observed in the weeks before Christians as a time to to prepare spiritually for Christmas.
Readings to Help One Pause and Reflect During Advent
While Advent is primarily observed in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox Churches, anyone can take advantage of its traditions to slow down and enjoy the spiritual along with the secular aspects of the Christmas Season.
The first day of Advent, which is always on a Sunday, is the start of the spiritual countdown to Christmas. This first Sunday of Advent tends to follow, within a week, or less the secular countdown of shopping days until Christmas. In America, the secular countdown unofficially begins the day after Thanksgiving.
Throughout history, Christmas has always been celebrated with both religious and secular elements.
People go to church on Christmas or Christmas eve and then come home to celebrate by feasting and gift giving with family and friends.
Does Preparing for Christmas leave you tired and stressed?
The practice of setting aside certain days of the year for the purpose of rejuvenating mind, body and spirit is an ancient one that has always been associated with religion.
Our word, holiday is is derived from the words holy day. Holidays and holy days are always days on which people break from their every day work routine and seek to regenerate by doing something different from their every day work routines.
This duality of the worldly and spiritual is described nicely in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy's instructions for giving Thanksgiving for the Harvest, found in Chapter 16 verses 1 – 11 which reads in part:
"When you have come into the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you as a heritage, and have occupied it and settled in it, you shall take some first fruits of the various products of the soil which you harvest from the land which the Lord, your God, gives you, and putting them in a basket,you shall go to the place which the Lord, your God, chooses for the dwelling place of his name... [and say] Therefore, I have now brought you the first fruits of the first fruits of the products of the soil which you, O Lord, have given me." And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in his presence. Then you and your family, together with the Levite and the aliens who live among you, shall make merry over all these good things which the Lord, your God, has given you.
(Source: The New American Bible, Copyright 1983 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
What is Advent?
Christmas is a great and joyous holiday. Unfortunately for many, the stress of shopping, food preparation and party planning leaves them emotionally exhausted and unable to enjoy the true happiness of this holiday.
Advent, provides an ideal counterbalance to the stress of secular preparations.
The secular preparations are important for the material portion of the celebrations but they do little for the emotional and next to nothing to prepare us for the spiritual portion of the holiday.
Advent fills this gap.
The ticking of the shopping clock is a daily reminder of things not yet done and a pressure to push ahead faster causing life to become a blur.
The turning of the pages of the Advent calendar are a call to pause, reflect on our lives and and appreciate the moment with family and friends.
Looking back, it is usually not the food, the parties or even the gifts received in Christmases past that people remember with joy, but, rather the love and companionship they shared with family and friends on those past Christmases.
So, during this season of Advent take a few moments each day to pause and reflect on your life, to say a prayer or mediate.
And, take time to celebrate each day! Spend some time sharing the day with family or friends – watch a movie together, take a friend to lunch, read a story to your children, share a quiet moment with your spouse, etc.
In this way you will get to celebrate and enjoy the entire Christmas season rather than just Christmas Day.
Do you observe Advent?
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams on Advent
© 2006 Chuck Nugent