Fr. James Martin, S.J.: This Advent, prepare to wait

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Only a saint could maintain the patience needed to confront the craziness of Christmas, at least the secular Christmas shopping season. That's too bad, because something gets overlooked in the rush—and that's Advent, the liturgical season that we just started.

Advent is a time of waiting. And waiting is something we all do: we wait for good news, a better job, or just for life to improve. Advent is when we think about waiting for Christ, and so it fits in perfectly with our natural human longings. “Come, thou long expected Jesus,” as the hymn goes. Advent is also the time of beautiful Scripture readings, perfect for prayer, like those we read this year in the Book of Baruch: “Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery, put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”

To carve out time for prayer in Advent, why not cut back on the craziness of Christmas preparations. Maybe send cards only to close friends and family; drop one present per person from your list; and go only to the most essential holiday gatherings. Does that sound selfish? It's just the opposite! It will give you more time to spend with those you love, and more time to spend in prayer.

Advent may be when you can really settle into your spiritual life, by finding joy in the season and less stress in Christmas. In short, Advent may be the time that you've been waiting for!

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Dennis Ehling
4 months 2 weeks ago

Wonderful insight on Advent. I would add one related point: Advent is a time of longing - which is waiting + desiring. Part of the gift of Advent each year is that it gives us the chance to reflect on what we really need in our lives, and to long for God to fill our desires with God's love. After such an Advent orienting ourselves to those deep needs, celebrating God sending his only Son into the world at Christmas to love us as much as he did is, indeed, joyous!

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