The focus of Advent is preparation for the coming of the Lord -- both in commemoration of His Nativity and His coming again at the end of time. Though most see this time of year as a part of the "Christmas Season," it isn't. The Christmas season does not begin until the first Mass at Christmas Eve, and doesn't end liturgically until the Octave of the Epiphany on January 14. It goes on in the spiritual sense until Candlemas on February 2.
The mood of the Advent season is one of somber spiritual preparation that increases in joy with each day, culminating with the most joyous celebration of the coming of Christ with the first Mass at midnight. The gaudy "Christmas" commercialism that surrounds us in the Western world should be avoided as much as possible. The singing of Christmas carols (which comes earlier and earlier each year), the talk of "Christmas" as a present reality, the decorated trees and the parties -- these things are "out of season" for Catholics; we should strive to keep the season of Advent holy and penitential, always remembering, as they say, that "Jesus is the reason for the Season."
Catholic apologist, Jacob Michael, wrote something very interesting about how secular America sees "Christmas" as beginning after Thanksgiving and ending on 25 December, and then makes "New Years Resolutions" at the beginning of the secular year:
- ...what Christians do (or should be doing!) during Advent and leading up to Christmas is a foreshadowing of what they will do during the days of their lives that lead up to the Second Coming; what non-Christians refuse to do during Advent, and put off until after Christmas, is precisely a foreshadowing of what they will experience at the Second Coming.
We Christians are to prepare for the Coming of Christ before He actually comes -- and that Coming is symbolized and recalled at Christmas. Non-Christians miss this season of preparation, and then scramble for six days after the 25th to make their resolutions. By then, however, it's too late -- Christmas has come and gone, Our Lord has already made His visitation to the earth, and He has found them unprepared. This is precisely what will take place at the Second Coming, when those who have put off for their entire lives the necessary preparations will suddenly be scrambling to put their affairs in order. Unfortunately, by then it will have been too late, and there will be no time for repentance. The Second Coming will be less forgiving than the Incarnation. There will be no four-week warning period before the Second Coming, like we get during Advent. There will be no six-day period of grace after the Second Coming during which to make resolutions and self-examination, like the secular world does from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1.
Advent is also season of preparation in a more mundane sense. Homes are cleaned from top to bottom, and Christmas cakes and cookies are often made for family and friends to share when Christmas finally arrives. Christmas cards are prepared and mailed, and special gifts are purchased for loved ones. Please see here for ways you can help Sancta Familia Academy while you shop for Christmas.
For Advent activities and ideas for families and children, visit www.catholichomeandgarden.com/advent.htm