Waiting in Joyful Hope

In last week”s post, “Christmas Don”t Be Early,” I commented on how we seem to be losing our sense of Advent, that “Christmas” begins after Thanksgiving and ends when the last present is opened on Christmas. The rhythm and profound meaning of the Advent and Christmas seasons in many places has given way to secularist and consumerist sensibilities.

Therefore, I was so pleased to read this morning the first pastoral letter of Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, entitled “Waiting in Joyful Hope: A Pastoral Letter to the Church of Salt Lake City on the Season of Advent,” issued last month. The entire letter is only a few  pages long and eminently readable.

Bishop Wester states the problem quite clearly: [more]

“Too often, the season of Advent is overshadowed by the ”holiday season” as we move too quickly into celebrating Christmas. By the time that the actual solemnity of Christmas arrives, many of us are burned out. We are already tired of all the ”Christmas hype.” Christmas has become anticlimactic.”

He then proceeds to give an overview of the Advent season, which is very good, though I disagree with his opinion that Advent doesn’2012-04-24 18:32:59′t have a penitential element to it. I think Advent”s penitential aspect complements and amplifies the theme of “joyful hope.”

He concludes with an exhortation to Catholics in Salt Lake City to embrace the season of Advent for what it is, a season of preparation and vigilant expectation. However, he goes a step further and gives some ideas for celebrating Advent and Christmas that I thought would be helpful to Catholics everywhere:

“Here are some particular examples of what this will entail. Schools should not decorate for Christmas, but can decorate with simple wreaths and greenery. They might celebrate ”Gaudete parties” before departing for Christmas break. I encourage each home to display and bless an Advent wreath where the family can gather for prayer either in the morning, at dinner, or some other practical time. I urge you to hold-off on displaying a decorated Christmas tree until the season of Christmas begins. You may want to incorporate a Jesse Tree in your family”s observance of the seasons. As the season draws to its close, I also invite you to discover the beauty of the 0 Antiphons, which are sung as part of evening prayer from December 17th to 23rd, and are most familiar to most of us in the hymn ”O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

“Once Christmas comes, the season stretches far beyond the 25th of December. It continues until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord on January 9, 2011. We should leave the decorations which are testimonies to our joy up for the entire season. There is plenty of time for us to celebrate our joy at Christ”s birth and we should make the most of it. You might consider having a Christmas gathering in the parish, or at home with family and friends during this time.”

On a separate note, today is, of course, the feast of St. Nicholas. My kids found candy and a potato in their shoes this morning. For more on this beloved saint, check out this post.

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