Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gaudete Sunday

We are three weeks into Advent; today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete translates from Latin into English as "rejoice," and so the third Sunday of Advent calls us to rejoice, knowing that the Lord is near. 

Advent is definitely not a season of the world. If you've spent any time in a Catholic church lately, you've seen this easily enough: our churches are dressed in purple - a color we associate with preparation, with discipline... with penitence. Since before Thanksgiving, the rest of the world has been decked out in red and green and silver and gold - when, as of today, the actual season of Christmas does not begin for another nine days! Like Lent, Advent is really a season of preparation and penitence - a season of "purple."

Advent and Lent have some interesting parallels - although we largely ignore the penitential spirit of Advent in favor of glittery Christmas decorations. However, Advent (ignored or not) and Lent recognize our need to prepare for very certain transitions: Advent, preparing for the coming of Christ into our temporal world, and Lent, preparing for Christ's death and resurrection... preparing for Christ's return to the non-temporal. BOTH should remind us to prepare for the second and final coming of Christ, at the end of time.

During Lent, we always talk about "giving things up." We usually don't talk about that during Advent, but maybe we should. If you think about it, what we term "the season of giving" is more typically perceived as the "season of getting." If we gave some thought to giving things up, instead of getting them at this time of year, we might help to remedy some of the vicious buy-buy-buy consumerism that has largely overwhelmed the Advent season in our culture. It would certainly help us focus on what's really important.

So what really is important during Advent? What should we be thinking about? 

Maybe what we should think about is about is not so much buying Christmas presents for ourselves or each other – but about finding an appropriate gift for Jesus. It is His birthday we are celebrating, after all.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record that we've all heard played before - the best gift we can give to Christ for his birthday is, of course: ourselves. 

Hypothetically speaking, if our Lord had a list of what he wanted for his birthday, I think what would be written on it would be the hope that every human heart would give itself, unreservedly, to him. This being true, hopefully we are using Advent as a time to make ourselves the best gift possible - instead of just spending it in the mall. 

And if we haven't done as well as we'd like to, there are still nine days until Christmas - but we shouldn't wait - there's no such thing as last-minute shopping for Christ's birthday gift. ;-)

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