By Michelle DeRoche
Last year I was very frustrated with myself. Thanksgiving came and I was grateful. Advent began and my mom nagged at me to turn off the Christmas music.
“It’s Advent, not Christmas yet.”
Then Christmas came and people threw out their trees and took down their decorations. Where had the celebration gone?
Last year, it seemed like Advent and Christmas passed in the blink of an eye, although with the amount of sleep I got at the end of the semester and during finals, that actually might be a literal estimate.
Advent is a liturgical season of preparation. The Catholic Church does not celebrate Advent for the sake of Advent; it is dependent upon the Christmas season.
Ironically, because of the sacrifices most Catholics make during Lent, the liturgical season before Lent is more memorable than Advent. I can trace back what I gave up each year: chocolate, candy, bread, et cetera. What if we did the same thing for Advent?
Sometimes the most we do for the Advent season is watch the priest light another candle on the wreath each week at Mass. Pretty soon the fourth candle will be lit and I’ll be wondering what I did during the first three weeks to prepare myself for Christmas.
To avoid this, I recommend actively participating in Advent by making a sacrifice or doing something extra to strengthen your faith. It could be taking out the trash in your apartment for your roommates, making an extra visit to the chapel to pray for a friend or going to Confession to ask God for forgiveness.
Every Advent in my Catholic grade school, each student would put a piece of straw in an empty manger in the classroom when he did an extra act of kindness for someone. The point was to fill the manger with straw to make it as comfortable as possible for Baby Jesus.
This activity may seem childish, but the idea is the same even for college students. What is the “hay” that we have to offer to Baby Jesus? We too can make Jesus’ time in the stable warm with the “hay” of kindness or sacrifices we have done for Him in the past few weeks.
As students, we’re busy during this time too. We don’t have time to do one more thing. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you could simply add a prayer to anything that is already in your schedule. While you are waiting for a class to start or waiting for your Cap Bar drink, you could say a Hail Mary or think about what Mary and Joseph were thinking or feeling on their trip to Bethlehem.
I hope I have given you some ideas for how to actively participate in Advent. I don’t want to wake up on Dec. 26 this year to realize that the only things I have done are buy a Secret Santa gift and imagine what I want under the tree.
As cliché as it sounds, Christ is the reason for the season, and I want to remember that now so that when the festivities begin on Christmas Eve I can offer my small sacrifices in exchange for God’s greatest gift of all: Himself.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).