Editorial – It’s not too late to prepare

Marnie McAllister

“Let the tree stand,” but don’t forget to prepare for Christ.

That’s a headline you can read on page six of this week’s edition of The Record. And it’s great advice for us Americans dead-set on celebrating Christmas as early as All Saints Day — that is, Nov. 1.

At the risk of sounding like Ebenezer Scrooge, it must be said: We’re celebrating the wrong season right now.

We’ve been listening to Christmas music since Halloween. Songs that should give us warm, fuzzy feelings and butterflies of anticipation are feeling a bit worn out already. 

Christmas lights and spectacles galore line houses, stores and even an underground cavern. Delightful as they are, who’s already a little bit “over it?”

Christmas ought to be special. And for something really to be special, it must be rare. The trappings of Christmas are all too common now. Where are the trappings of Advent?

In the 10 days or so we have left, there is time to focus on Advent.

The headline cited above identifies a story by reporter Ruby Thomas, who covered a homily given by Ghanian Cardinal Peter Turkson in Louisville Dec. 9. The cardinal, a Vatican official, urged his listeners not to squelch the signs of Christmas, but to refocus their attention.

He said, “Let the tree stand and let the (Christmas) lights begin to flicker, but let us not forget what God is doing for us in these four weeks of preparation towards the feast of Jesus coming to take our human nature.”

He reminded his listeners attending the opening Mass of the Archdiocesan Black Catholic Congress that a very special preparation took place prior to Jesus’ nativity: Mary, the Blessed Mother, was conceived without blemish in preparation for Christ’s coming.

We celebrate the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation observed Dec. 8, at the beginning of Advent for a reason, he said.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is the beginning of the “great action” that leads to the salvation of mankind, he explained. “That’s what happened when Jesus descended into the womb of Mary and took unto himself the dust we are.” 

The cardinal noted that the days before Christmas should be a time of reflection on what “God is preparing for us.”

The truth is, the dust that we are can prepare a place for Jesus, welcome him into our hearts, with some very simple actions right here in the middle of our Christmas extravaganza.

Some people fast during Advent. The austerity of fasting is often associated with Lent, but it can be an edifying spiritual practice during Advent, too.

Prayer is central to preparing for Christ. And there are many ways to engage in it — from private and personal prayer to formal services, such as vespers with the Ursuline Sisters. The Ursulines are inviting the public to join them in their Lexington Road chapel to pray with them each Sunday of Advent at a 4:30 p.m. vespers service.

Parishes around the Archdiocese of Louisville also are having reconciliation services this time of year. What better way to prepare for spending hours in close quarters with your relatives than with the sacrament of reconciliation? In all seriousness, reconciliation is a reliable way to prepare for the difficulties we all encounter at family gatherings this time of year. The sacrament can bring us closer to God and the people in our lives.

So, let the tree stand. Plug-in those flickering lights. Wrap gifts. But let’s not forget to prepare for Christ, too.

In a 1945 Advent reflection, Dorothy Day, foundress of the Catholic Worker movement, wrote this:

“It is no use to say that we are born 2,000 years too late to give room to Christ. Nor will those who lived at the end of the world have been born too late. Christ is always with us, always asking for room in our hearts.”



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