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Things to do to enrich our Advent experience

By Stephan Alexander, seminarian

It’s Advent time again!, the season which begins our Church year. It’s a time of preparation and reflection, hope and anticipation, when all our focus turns to an excited awaiting of the coming of the eternal Son of God.

As the season progresses our sense of expectation, promise and hope deepens as we are reminded that Jesus came into the world for us, taking on our flesh through the Incarnation; that Jesus currently comes to us in the Church through grace; and, Jesus will come again as King and Judge of the living and the dead.

The reality of our waiting is not a passive one. Rather, Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, suggests, we are encouraged to actively wait by living fully in the present “to find there the signs of the One we are waiting for”.

Active waiting lends practical significance to this period of preparation. Hence, there are many things we can do to enrich our Advent experience. Pairing an Advent activity such as an Advent wreath with prayer and reflection on our society can provide fruitful spiritual preparation.

Here, it’s not so much about what we do, but how and why we do it. Of course, who we do it with, is also important because such activities are most fruitful when shared.

A family, small group or community, prayerfully disposed to decorate an Advent wreath, reflect on the virtues of the characters presented in our Advent readings, and who exercises these virtues in their daily circumstances will be spiritually enriched. Equally or perhaps more importantly, will be the enrichment experienced by the persons we encounter.

Hence, during this First week of Advent as we pray and light the first candle of our wreath, we might focus on the virtue of Hope and the hopelessness experienced by many of our fellow citizens who live in poverty, who have lost their jobs, the recent victims of flooding and the victims of crime. Our reflection should lead us to share with them a word of hope, a smile and some other tangible sign of solidarity.

In this way the love of Christ, whom we await, is present and hopefulness is rejuvenated.