I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and are getting back into the swing of things at school for a few weeks before Christmas is here! This can be such a busy time of year with family activities, Christmas parties, school events, and much more. Once Thanksgiving is over, it seems like the Christmas season has officially started. There is definitely nothing wrong with starting to think about Christmas now. In fact, the Incarnation of Jesus, that we celebrate on Christmas, is something that we should contemplate and have on our minds throughout the entire year!
This Sunday is the 1st Sunday of Advent. A fun fact for 2017 is that December 3rd is the latest date that Advent can ever start because the 4th Sunday of Advent will be on Christmas Eve this year. As we approach this Advent season, I want to encourage you all to remember the Advent season and not to skip straight to Christmas this year. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops website states, “The Advent season is a time of preparation that directs our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time and also to the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on Christmas.”
Advent is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, and the readings at mass the next four weeks will reflect this. While we usually associate Lent with penance, the Church also considers Advent a penitential time of the Church year. During Lent there are some minimum requirements that the Church prescribes to help us with our penance and preparation for Easter like not eating meat on Fridays. There are no such requirements during Advent. This gives us a great opportunity to take the initiative ourselves to implement some things in our lives that will help us prepare for Christmas. One thing I suggest would be spending some extra time in prayer and reading the Bible. On December 4th our parish is going to start having Adoration from 10 AM – 10 PM every Monday through Friday. It would be great to stop by Adoration sometime during Advent to spend some time with Jesus, even if you can only spend 10 or 15 minutes. I would also recommend attending daily mass some time if you are able to. Our parish now has daily mass at 7 am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays and other parishes throughout Des Moines have it at other times. Advent is also a great time to make a point of going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
I would also encourage you all to make some type of sacrifice that you offer to God during Advent. This could be not eating meat for a day or skipping dessert or passing on some other food you like. It could also be not watching TV or playing video games one evening and praying the Rosary instead. There are all kinds of options! The great thing about this is that you get to choose what you do, and it is a totally voluntary gift to God. The Church doesn’t tell you exactly what to do to prepare for Christmas, so it is up to you to do what is best for you to deepen your relationship with God and show Him your love.
While Advent is a time of preparation, also remember that it is a joyous time. We are preparing for Christmas, and we know the end of the story! Jesus came to earth as a man, conquered death, and is coming again to establish His eternal kingdom. I hope you all have a great Advent!
Word up. I am Stacy, the youth minister of this amazing group of teens. I have 4 kids of my own, 2 heaven babies and like 60 teens I consider very large children of my own.