by Father Mark Goldasich
“Danger, Will Robinson, danger!”
People of a certain age might remember this catchphrase from the 1960s TV show “Lost in Space.” The words were spoken by a robot/protector to Will when the boy was heading into some kind of threat.
Well, I’d modify the phrase to “Danger, fellow Catholic, danger!” The “threat” we’re facing is blinking . . . and totally missing out on Advent this year. That’s because the Fourth “Week” of Advent is only a few hours long because the Fourth Sunday of Advent lands on Dec. 24. So, we only really have three full weeks to prepare for Christmas.
Perhaps this Cherokee creation story will prove helpful as we anticipate the start of Advent on Dec. 3:
When the plants and trees were first made, the Great Mystery gave a gift to each species. But first, he set up a contest to determine which gift would be the most beneficial to whom.
“I want you to stay awake and keep watch over the earth for seven nights,” said the Great Mystery. The young trees and plants were so excited to be entrusted with such an important job that the first night they didn’t find it difficult to stay awake. However, the second night wasn’t so easy, and just before dawn, a few fell asleep. On the third night, the trees and plants whispered among themselves in the wind, trying to keep from dropping off to sleep, but it was too much work for some. Even more fell asleep on the fourth night.
By the time the seventh night came, the only trees and plants still awake were the cedar, the pine, the spruce, the fir, the holly and the laurel.
“What wonderful endurance you have,” said the Great Mystery. “You shall be given the gift of remaining green forever. You will be the guardians of the forest. Even in the dead of winter, your brother and sister creatures will find life protected in your branches.”
Ever since then, all the other trees and plants lose their leaves and sleep all winter while the evergreens stay awake. (Adapted from “Why Some Trees Are Evergreen,” found in William J. Bausch’s “A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers.”)
Bausch notes that this creation story “speaks of greenness in the midst of barrenness and associates this greenness with the ability to stay awake.” Of course, “staying awake” is a key Advent theme.
Staying “green” — preparing our heart, mind and soul — in this very short Advent season will require special vigilance. Some ideas might include:
• Set up and bless an Advent wreath (honestly, any four types of light and a bit of evergreen will do) and light it faithfully at least a few minutes each day.
• When the Christmas tree and Nativity scene go up, assemble the family to bless these seasonal decorations. Make up your own prayer or find one online.
• Buy and use an Advent calendar to count down the days. You’ll be amazed at the variety available.
• Attend an Advent penance service.
• Perform some act(s) of kindness each day to offset the seasonal stress typical of the holidays.
• Celebrate the Advent saints: give little gifts on St. Nicholas (Dec. 6); attend Mass on Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8, a holy day of obligation); enjoy Mexican food or hot chocolate on Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12); and visit a neighborhood or community light display on St. Lucy (Dec. 13).
Spend time this week after Thanksgiving to plan how you’ll mark Advent. And especially this year, if you snooze, you’ll lose . . . the peace and comfort these days have to offer!