How do I do justice to Advent when wider society is already celebrating Christmas throughout December? How do I square Christmas parties with the austerity of an authentic celebration of Advent? How do I prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas when, as far as the world around me is concerned, Christmas is here already?
When I go to Mass, it is Advent. When I walk out at the end of Mass, it is Christmas. Conversely, while I attempt to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, wider society has already binned its Christmas decorations and is planning its summer holidays.
Over the years I have developed some coping strategies. I don’t play carols or Christmas music in the house or in my car until the final days before Christmas. I avoid eating turkey and Christmas pudding at any pre-Christmas meals to which I am invited. I leave the crib in place as long as possible after Christmas – sometimes until 2 February.
This year I plan a new strategy. Although the First Sunday of Advent is officially the start of the Church’s liturgical year, November glides seamlessly into Advent. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls at the beginning of November focus our minds on the ‘Last days’. Many of the readings at Mass during November are apocalyptic in tone. They deal with death, the Day of the Lord and final Judgement. Readings for the first weeks of Advent reinforce the same message. The feast of Christ the Universal King sees him sitting on His throne in glory while Advent calls us to stay awake for the Second Coming of Christ who will come like a thief in the night.
Why not make November my personal Advent? Maybe I will then be ready to embrace Christmas celebrations throughout December.