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  • Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

1st Sunday of Advent (A)


In 1892, American author and literary critic William Dean Howells wrote a story entitled Christmas Every Day and part of it reads like this … “Once upon a time there was a little girl who liked Christmas so much that she wanted it to be Christmas every day of the year. Her wish was granted. After it had gone on for four months, the little girl, whenever she went in the room in the morning and saw these great ugly, lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents around everywhere, used to sit down and burst out crying. In six months she was perfectly exhausted, she couldn’t even cry anymore.”

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Entrance Antiphon: Ps 25(24):1-3“To You, I lift up my soul, O my God In You, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame. Nor let my enemies exult over me; and let none who hope in You be put to shame.”

First Reading: Is 2:1-5“The Lord will gather all the nations into the eternal peace of the Kingdom of God.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

Second Reading: Rom 13:11-14“Our salvation is nearer.”

Alleluia: Ps 85:8“Alleluia, alleluia. Show us, Lord, Your love; and grant us Your salvation. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 24:27-44“Stay awake, that you may be prepared.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 85(84):13“The Lord will bestow His bounty, and our earth shall yield its increase.”

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Joseph H. Bottum, an American politician, former Lieutenant Governor and United States Senator from South Dakota once made this comment during an interview he gave to his nephew, the editor of the religious magazine, First Things: “Today Christmas has devoured Advent ... gobbled it up ... For much of America, Christmas arrives nearly as an afterthought: not the beginning but only the end, of the long Yule season that has burned without stop.”

So the question remains … Why can’t or why shouldn’t we celebrate Christmas during Advent? What’s the big deal? Well, simply put, the liturgical season of Advent is what gives Christmas its meaning. Actually, without a well-kept Advent, Christmas makes no sense.

How connected are our homes and Catholic schools to the liturgical season being kept by the Church universal? Aren’t Catholic institutions sending mixed signals to the faithful? The church is draped in Advent violet, clergy wear violet vestments (and rose on the Third Sunday of Advent). If I would walk through the halls of any school, including Saint Michael the Archangel Regional School, or travel down Delsea Drive, how many have Christmas decorations up already? … not to mention the stores … some of which had Christmas decorations up since mid-August. Hobby Lobby comes to mind ... Santa came to many shopping malls the end of October or the very beginning of November. Advent was once a penitential time of year, much like Lent. The emphasis the Church puts on Advent today is joyous expectation. “Stay awake, that you may be prepared!” Advent is something to celebrate! Yet by and large it is ignored. Isaiah, Micah, and the other prophets have been replaced by Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch, and the Red Ryder B-B Gun.

Having said all that, what practical activities could we do to keep a genuine Advent season? Over twenty years ago, now, an unknown author e-mailed an article called “The Advent Virus.” It circulated widely just before and during the Advent season, in 1997. This unknown author warned us to “be on the alert for symptoms of inner hope, peace, joy and love.” The article related that this virus can actually cure us of a deadly plague named “the Christmas madness” during the Advent season. It asked that we pray to catch this virus! Here are its symptoms: ... an unmistakable ability to enjoy each moment, ... a loss of interest in judging other people, ... a loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others, ... a loss of interest in conflict, ... a loss of the ability to worry, ... frequent overwhelming episodes of appreciation, ... contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature, an increasing tendency to let things happen rather than working all out to make them happen, ... an increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as the uncontrollable urge to share it.

Here’s a suggestion for this Season of Advent 2019. Let’s put our priority on the Sunday Advent readings. Use one each evening during or after dinner. Place a homemade Advent wreath on the table. Sing the refrain of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” We need to remember that Christmas is not just a day. It is an entire liturgical season. This year, the Christmas season is almost a full 18 days, beginning Christmas Eve, December 24, 2019 and climaxing on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday, January 12, 2020.

There is plenty of time to host Christmas parties, play Christmas music, and enjoy Christmas DVDs and school programs throughout a whole 18 days. Some Catholic schools have their Christmas program and parties after everyone returns in January. But wait ... that isn’t really after Christmas ... is it??? ... Well, the world would like you to believe … would have you believe … that come December 26th, Christmas is over … stores are gearing up for the Superbowl and Valentine’s Day ... but shouldn’t we all … a Catholic parish, the Catholic school, Catholic homes, as well as other Catholic institutions, be celebrating the same liturgical season all at the same time?

How do we catch the Advent virus? We need to listen ... really listen ... to the Advent readings. Share them as a family or with friends. Read them ahead of time in order to prepare to hear and to listen to them proclaimed at Mass. Let them resonate with you and sink into our heart. Perhaps then we can catch the Advent virus and become people of true joy and thankfulness ... we can become people of Advent ... we can eventually become people of Christmas ... and ultimately we can be people of the Eucharist.

#01st #Advent #hope #prepare #awake

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