Editor’s Note: The following is an Advent letter from Msgr. Martin T. Laughlin, admini stra tor of the Diocese of Char les ton.
The season of Advent inaugurates the liturgical year of the church.
If we wish to describe or place a lasting character to the liturgical year it is one of wakefulness and vigilance. In our first Sunday of Advent we hear Jesus speaking: “Stay awake,” “Be on guard,” “Be on the watch,” and “Pray constantly.”
The Roman calendar says most explicitly, “Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s second coming at the end of time.”
For most of us, Advent is a time to prepare for the festivities of Christmas. Unfortunately, the season has turned to one of buying and selling. In our culture it has become a mercantile passage of time. Merchants succeed if the year’s profit lives up to expectation. It is indeed, then, “A very merry Christmas.”
This season has become one of glitter, office parties and Santa Claus. The birth of Christ and his second coming are forgotten, or the public manifestation of the mystery of joy is prohibited by the law, by political correction, and by a secular culture that prohibits or forbids expression of Christian faith in public school or public places.
There is a familiar theme of our time, “Put Christ back into Christmas.” Perhaps, the theme should be, “Put Christ back in our hearts and minds. Put Christ back in our homes and families.”
The prayer “Come, Lord Jesus” must be on our lips and in our hearts. As Catholics we must pray and work that his kingdom of justice, his kingdom of peace, and his kingdom of love must prevail in this sacred time and in this holy season. But how may we realize and experience his kingdom first in our minds and hearts? By conversion in our homes; in our families, who are the domestic church; and in our world.
Sacred journey of reconciliation: Is there anyone in our families, in our place of work or in our professional lives to whom we must bring the peace, love and forgiveness of the Lord Jesus? Is there anyone we have ignored for years by cruel silence, a brother, a sister, children, a fellow human being? Is there anyone from whom to beg forgiveness?
The sacrament of reconciliation: A worthy confession is to experience the holy sacrament of penance or reconciliation in order to welcome the healing and forgiving peace of the Lord Jesus.
There is no sin, however grave and shameful, that is not forgiven by a worthy confession. How many became saints by a good, worthy confession? Do not be afraid. Your good pastor will help you celebrate God’s mercy in the Lord Jesus. A regular confessor is a blessing.
The restoration of Christ: To welcome Christ the Lord Jesus in our homes, the infinite one waits for us to open the door of our home. Do we place a crèche in the center of festivities? Do you, as parents, teach the beauty and mystery of Christ? Do you explain his triumphant second coming to your children? Is there a crucifix proudly displayed in your home? If someone entered would they know they entered a Catholic home, a home of believers in the Lord Jesus?
Giving: In our giving, do we remember the presence of the Lord Jesus in the poor and lonely who carry heavy burdens? Is there a place at our Christmas banquet for a lonely person? A poor person? They may live next door.
“Come, Lord Jesus.” Let us pray that this sacred time be a time of intense spiritual preparation. At each euch aristic sacrifice we proclaim, we believe, we await and long for his second coming in all his glory and majesty.
Is this, then, not a time to prepare our souls, our families, our loved ones? Are we really waiting and preparing for the coming of the Lord Jesus on Christmas day his second coming in glory?
Let us put Christ back into Christmas, but first, let us put Christ, the Lord Jesus, back into our hearts.
Christina Rossetti, in her poem, “A Christmas Carol,” perhaps composed on a bleak winter day, wrote:
Angels and archangels/May have gathered there,/Cherubim and seraphim/Thronged the air,/But only his mother/ In her maiden bliss/Worship ped the beloved/With a kiss.
What can I give him,/Poor as I am?/If I were a shepherd/ I would bring a lamb,/If I were a wise man/I would do my part —/Yet what I can, I give him,/Give my heart.
Come, Lord Jesus.