Monday, November 30, 2009

"Let's Not Tailgate Our Way to Christmas"

Happy first week of Advent, dear readers!

I was blessed to hear a wonderful homily at the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening, and wanted to share some of the priest's reflections on Advent with all of you. In all honesty, this was a homily that I wish I could have recorded - the priest did an amazing job of capturing the true meaning of Advent and of conveying to all of us the weight and importance of this liturgical season. One of the most helpful reminders to me was that Advent is not only a period of devout and joyful expectation as we prepare for Christmas which celebrates Christ's first coming, but that it is also a season which reminds us that we await Christ's second coming. The Church in her wisdom has devoted the Gospel passages for the first two Sundays of Advent to reminding us that Christ will come again in glory at the time of the Last Judgment, and that "upon the earth [there will be] distress of nations in perplexity" and "men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world" (Luke 21: 25-26). Why will there be great distress and people fainting with fear? Because many will be surprised by and unprepared for Christ's coming.

And so we must ask ourselves, "Am I prepared to meet Christ when He comes again? Are the activities of my daily life preparing me for eternal life with my Creator, or are they merely self-serving and aimed at earthly success? Am I looking forward to heaven, or am I unduly attached to the things of this world?" As the Gospel of Luke reminds us, "...take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare" (Luke 21: 34).

During this season of Advent, we must soberly and seriously take the time to prepare our hearts for the joyful coming of Jesus at Christmas, and also for His coming at the end of time. In a culture that encourages spending the next few weeks rushing from store to store for the perfect gifts and from one holiday gathering to the next, we must make sure that our focus remains on preparing ourselves and our families for Christ our King. Many of us will invite guests into our homes for Christmas, and we will go to great lengths to tidy and decorate our homes so that they will be festive and welcoming. What are we doing to make sure that our hearts will be a welcoming place for Jesus when he comes?

The title of this post references tailgating, a fun activity that many people engage in during football season. While the football game may not begin until 1 p.m., football fans gather in the parking lot at 10 a.m. to eat, drink, and enjoy each other's company. Tailgates are great fun, but our priest commented that in his experience, many people overindulge in the pre-game festivities so that by the time half-time comes around, they are completely out of it. He warned us that we must not tailgate our way to Christmas. We must not overindulge in the pre-Christmas festivities so that by the time Christmas arrives, we're glad that it's all over! Again, Christmas parties, baking, and decorating are great in moderation, but if they become our focus rather than preparing ourselves for the great mystery that we are about to celebrate, we will have missed a great opportunity.

Next Sunday's Gospel reminds us of the words of the prophet Isaiah: "...Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Luke 3: 4-6). Let us truly prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of our Lord, that we may fully celebrate his Incarnation at Christmas and look with joyful anticipation towards the time that He will come again.

A few tools that we will be using in our home during Advent are a very simple Jesse Tree, a special family prayer, and an interactive and child-friendly Nativity Scene. We will learn Christmas carols but (much as I love them!) we will try not to overdo it so that we will still want to listen to them during the Christmas season. As we bake Christmas cookies and trim our tree, we will remind our children that the reason that we do all of these things is so that we can prepare our hearts and our home to to welcome Jesus. First and foremost, my husband and I will be praying for our own purity of heart and mind, that we may be truly leading our family towards eternal life in heaven.


B-Mama said...

Kat, this is a beautiful reflection and I'm so glad you shared it. My meditation last night at the start of my little Advent book (picked up at church) reflected on the very same idea your priest imparted. Christ's coming to the earth as a baby mirrors his second coming and our need for great preparation and anticipation.

Your godson glowed as he opened the Nativity set you all sent--it is perfect and is a wonderful start to our Advent season. Thanks for getting us off to a great start!!

texas mommy said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful words, Kat! I think one of the best ways we can help prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ-child is making sure we go to confession during Advent. A sincere examination of conscience and the Sacrament of Reconciliation are a great way to begin Advent!

Right Said Red said...

God Bless you Kat for this beautiful reflection! It was just what I needed to hear today.

JMB said...

I have such a hard time during Advent because I am not a crafty person. I don't like doing arts and crafts with my kids. I wonder sometimes if it is a throw back to my childhood where religious ed was all about arts & crafts, and not much else...but I digress (I'm 43, spent a lot of time making felt banners and singing Day by Day). So thank you Texas Mommy for bringing up Confession, because that is one thing I do with all my children during this season.

Lisa said...

Dear Kat,

Thank you so much for sharing this. I've read this blog on and off for some time now, and I must say this is one of the most meaningful posts I've read here. I genuinely appreciate your taking the time to share.


Elena said...

Thank you, Kat. This was a beautiful post and a reminder to take it slowly so that I don't tear down the tree on the 26th and relax now that it is all over! Have you seen the Advent Conspiracy video?

Mary Alice said...

Kat, this was really a helpful reflection.

I think it is interesting to note that Princeton now CLOSES the tailgating area at game time so that fans have to go to the game. They have cops going around and you cannot stay at your car. This just shows how common it was becoming for people to party right through without even showing up for the game. This just furthers the analogy -- I have been so shocked and offended by the recent Gap commercials encouraging us to party (shop) but to ignore any one specific holiday. This is, to me, like tailgating without even planning to go to the game, just using something as an excuse for excess.

Kat said...

JMB, I am also not a crafty person at all, although I sometimes wish that I was! It is a real effort for me to incorporate crafty things into our family life, it just doesn't come naturally. Our decorations are very simple, but I just do a little at a time and if it becomes stressful, I figure that it isn't worth it :)

TM, thanks for the reminder about Confession, I always mean to go at the beginning of Advent and end up going towards the end, when everyone else has the same idea!

Elena, what is the Advent Conspiracy video?? Sounds interesting...