We begin the season of Advent on 29 November 2020 with four themes, one for each week, leading up to Christmas – Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. The 1st Sunday of Advent will mark the beginning of the new liturgical year for 2020/2021.
The moment we enter these beautiful and exciting seasons – Advent and Christmas, we hear the most spiritually uplifting hymns and carols. These are the hymns and carols we hear once a year. During Advent, at almost every mass, we sing the hymn “O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, which has lyrics that are so soothing, peaceful and heartening. When we pay attention to the lyrics, it creates an atmosphere of worship and joy. This COVID-19 pandemic may dampen our atmosphere of worship and joy for the upcoming celebration and fellowship of Christmas. Due to the unprecedented, uncertainty of this global crisis, we may have a quieter celebration, just among our immediate family members at home.
Advent is the season of expectant waiting before Christmas. Advent is not a penitential season, unlike Lent – a period of self-denial, fasting and penance. It is not Christmas yet but we need to pay attention to the Advent – a period of penitential practices – a time to repent. When we now reflect on our journey during previous seasons of Advent, we realize that we placed a lot of importance on the commercial aspects of Christmas. We view this season as a season of preparation for feasting, shopping, parties, holidays, decorating the Christmas tree and putting together the nativity set for the celebration on 25 December.
I invite everyone to fully focus on the themes of Advent which already exist in the readings for Advent. It is a crucial time to reflect on our relationship with God, a time to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. As we pay attention to the hymns, lyrics, readings, let us keep in mind the poor and needy, those less fortunate than us, and how we can make a difference and make room for them in our Christmas celebration. Let’s make a promise to do better to amend our sinful life as we await with great expectation the coming of the Lord.
No matter what is happening around us during this global crisis, we make room for the real meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus once again in our hearts and our homes. I encourage you to take every opportunity to focus on the readings and meditate upon them daily. It will also be good just to list down the hymns for this Advent and Christmas seasons and use them during your individual or family prayers. We too can light candles on the wreath at home until Christmas to proclaim the Child Jesus born of Mary is the Son of God, (LK 2: 9). As we make spiritual progress throughout the season of Advent, do cultivate your spiritual journal writing each day which will orientate you to stay focused on the mystery of the Incarnation – “the Word became flesh, and lived among us,” (Jn 1:14).
In these challenging times, whether we face loneliness, financial or job stress, grief, illness, etc., just be extra thankful to God this Advent and He will give us courage, faith and hope to carry us through the toughest of times. Let’s prepare ourselves well, both in heart and mind, for Christmas.
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy