A Different Sort of Advent

Most years, at the beginning of Advent, I write a rant about how the secular world refers to the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas as the Christmas Season. I lament that rather than celebrating Advent. Commercial interests whip us into a frenzy of shopping, decorating, social engagements, and special Christmas pageantry. I bemoan that there never seems to be time to celebrate these weeks of Advent as we should. Our Christmas preparations usually cause us to be too busy for any time of reflection, prayerful preparation, and anticipation for the celebration of the Incarnation of Christ.

This week I read an editorial in Our Sunday Visitor. In the article, “Celebrating the most Advent-like Advent ever,” the OSV Editorial Board wrote the coronavirus pandemic makes it possible to celebrate Advent as it was meant to be celebrated this year. The virus is causing the paring down and, in many cases, elimination of many seasonal traditions. Christmas Tree Lightings, concerts, office parties, and many other activities that are part of our celebration of the season have become victims of the pandemic. Canceling many traditional activities is painful and a loss for all of us.

The pandemic is forcing all of us to slow down this Advent. Maybe this year, an Advent spirit can take hold in our hearts. Perhaps what we lose out on socially we can make up for spiritually. The editorial speculates that since we have to cut back on some of our shopping, maybe we will grow more detached from material things. Perhaps fewer social engagements will help us take the time to focus on the spiritual more this year. What we save on party preparations can be donated to help those impacted financially by tough economic times.

The Editorial Board wrote that maybe this year’s extreme conditions might help us more effectively prepare our hearts for Christ’s coming. This time of illness and death gives us more of an opportunity to reflect on our mortality. It can allow us to contemplate the possibility of meeting Jesus Christ at the end of time.

While we recognize the coronavirus has caused much loss. Advent is a season of hope. In the face of disaster, there are great signs of hope. Health care workers and others on the frontlines caring for virus sufferers are doing amazing work caring for the suffering at great personal cost. The recent news that virus vaccines have been developed with lightning speed gives us hope the pandemic can be brought under control. The generous spirits of so many people, helping relieve the suffering of those adversely impacted by the virus, helps reassure us of our world’s fundamental goodness.

Our Sunday Visitor’s editors encouraged readers by saying that while this Advent will be very different, and many will feel a sense of loss, the changes need not be negative. They hope that many Catholics will feel spiritually enriched when Christmas comes after celebrating our most Advent-like Advent ever! Let’s all make that our prayer intention too.