The season of Advent has been observed by the Christian Church for the four weeks before Christmas since the sixth century. It was designated a time of preparation and penitence, and initially observed similarly to the Lenten season that precedes Easter. Advent was to be set aside for prayer, fasting and alms-giving, focused on preparing the hearts of the faithful to receive the Christ Child at the time of the Feast of the Incarnation (Christmas). The thirty or so days of Advent were solemn and subdued, in contrast to the joyous mood of the Twelve Days of Christmas that followed.

Contemporary society seems to have reversed these two seasons. The time before Christmas is now the time when we try frantically to squeeze in everything we feel compelled to do to celebrate the secular season: the shopping, the gifts, the baking, the parties, the performances, and for many, the travel arrangements. The days after Christmas have become the more subdued time. As a result, the pre-Christmas season is now known for producing high levels of stress and anxiety and not much calm or contemplation. Many of us long for even a moment of peace amid the chaos of commercial Christmas.

This set of weekly reflections is intended to help you arrive at a new perspective on the Advent season. I invite you to pause and take a brief “time out,” to create a space of calm and quiet during which you can prepare to receive the Savior. Keep in mind that we prepare for the arrival of a person and not a date on the calendar. Remember, too, that the goal is not to stage the “perfect” Christmas celebration. Rather, the goal of Advent is to be ready to greet God himself with a contrite spirit and a humble heart. May we all have a Blessed Advent season.