by Emily Lopez
We are in the thick of the busiest days of the holiday season — one week to Christmas Day.
We are also in the midst of the shortest possible Advent season, as the calendar is playing its own interesting role this year. Week 4 of Advent is seemingly lost, or rather we get to fit our Week 4 experience into a handful of hours before Christmas.
We will have a liturgical celebration for the Fourth Week of Advent on the Sunday that is also Christmas Eve. No, that does not mean that Sunday Mass counts for double. It does mean that we are invited to celebrate Mass for two different feasts on back-to-back days.
I understand the liturgical logistics and trust many people recognize the beauty in this situation.
However, this news was not immediately received with joy in my home.
Fortunately, the upside of parenting teenagers is knowing the remedies to teen moodiness are good food and long naps — both of which will definitely fill the rest of our Christmas week.
It does make me wonder about my expectations for the season — how I spend my time and what I accomplish. Recognizing Advent as a season of preparation is not a difficult task.
There are a number of things to be done, gifts to purchase, parties to attend, visits to be coordinated . . . and more. We do our best to jam extra activities into an already overcrowded schedule, chasing the end of the to-do list each day before falling asleep as we make tomorrow’s list in our heads. Left unchecked, this season of joy can quickly burn us out — not quite offering the Advent preparation our souls desire.
The true longing of our heart through this season is not difficult to know, but challenging to prioritize. We were not made for the consumer-driven, fast-paced, unattainable expectations of the world’s approach to Christmas; we can feel it in our bones. The “more” that we seek is the heart of our faith, especially in the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
We know that gifts are fleeting, just like our time on earth to share celebrations with family and friends. But knowing this is not a sadness; it’s an invitation to focus on the greatest gift of Christ. When we step back from the ledge of chaos and give ourselves pause, we can reflect on the incredible simplicity of celebrating Christmas well.
It’s about the gift of a Savior when we had no hope, to live among us and take our sins upon his cross. This is the gift of peace and eternal joy available to every person — a gift worth everything. A gift that we are blessed to celebrate in one week with back-to-back Masses.