Have you ever asked yourself why you need Advent?
We already have forty days of Lent every year.
Besides, Christmas preparations keep many families so busy that having “something else to think about” can be overwhelming.
Let’s talk about this.
Let’s consider three reasons why we need Advent.
1. Advent Enables Us to Celebrate Christmas Well—and Happily!
Why do we need Advent?
First, we need it because preparation is a reality of life.
When we are invited to be members of a wedding party, a wedding rehearsal is expected. When we have guests coming, we take the time to clean our house in anticipation of their arrival. When we have a presentation to give, we do some research on our topic and rehearse what we’re going to say.
In the same way, it’s difficult to celebrate important things deeply and meaningfully without preparation. We must prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Church’s greatest feasts. So Easter has a Lent, and Christmas has an Advent.
If we don’t prepare, the actual day of celebration won’t mean as much and our souls won’t be as open to the long-term transformation offered by such a holy day.
If we do prepare, there is a much better chance that our hearts will be present and alive to the realities that we celebrate.
2. Advent is Our Spiritual Wake-Up Call
Advent snaps us out of our complacency, our daydream-like interaction with this passing world, and wakes us up to a greater spiritual reality: Jesus is coming soon.
Are we ready for Him?
Fr. Alfred Delp S.J., a devout German priest who was imprisoned by the Nazis and martyred in 1945, had an emphatic love for the season of Advent.
While in prison—and between torture sessions—he managed to write powerful reflections while in handcuffs. His writings were smuggled out of his prison cell.
To this day, his words on Advent are as fresh now as the day they were written.
Advent is a time of being deeply shaken, so that man will wake up to himself.Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., Advent of the Heart
How interesting that preparation for Christmas should require our being “shaken.” What did Fr. Delp mean by this?
To start, some of the Mass readings for the season of Advent refer to a kind of “shaking”:
There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken.Luke 21:25-26
Oh, that you [Lord] would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you.Isaiah 64:1
These verses describe a rather frightening world-wide shaking. But there is another kind of shaking that needs to happen.
It’s the kind we refer to when we talk about someone we think is being blind and stubborn: “I just wanted to shake him/her!” people say. The shaking they really want for this person is a mental one—and can be spiritual, too.
What about us?
Even when we are fully awake and walking around, going to work or taking care of things at home, we are often spiritually asleep—and don’t realize it.
We forget that we are in need of a savior. We are caught up in this world, just as the people at Bethlehem were when Joseph and Mary sought shelter for the soon-to-be-born Christ Child.
Our lives are so full, so busy with daily tasks, that heaven becomes a vague idea which rarely affects us.
And this is understandable. Our days are filled with the average and the ordinary: ordinary responsibilities, ordinary frustrations, ordinary sins.
Advent calls us back. Advent wakes us up.
We need this awakening because, as Fr. Delp points out, we can “slip into mental weariness,” while the Bible warns us, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…” (Luke 21:34).
Sometimes life itself provides an awakening in a painful way.
We might experience a devastating loss that causes everything we once held secure to fall down around our ears with a crash.
In contrast, there is a tenderness in the way Advent shakes us awake. It is a firm yet gentle summons to prepare ourselves for the Bridegroom of our souls: Jesus Christ, Son of God.
Being shaken awake is entirely appropriate to thoughts and experiences of Advent…The shaking is what sets up the secret blessedness of this season and enkindles the inner light in our hearts…It is precisely in the severity of this awakening, in the helplessness of coming to consciousness, in the wretchedness of experiencing our limitations that the golden threads running between Heaven and earth during this season reach us…Fr. Alfred Delp, Advent of the Heart
3. Advent Gives Us Crucial Opportunities for Grace
Advent is a gift—one that we sorely need.
It’s a liturgical season that gives us the opportunity to examine our hearts and seek new beginnings where we have fallen short. Since it is a new year for the Church, it is also a new year for us, for we are members of the Church.
Advent helps us decide how we will “live and act…and prove ourselves” to be Catholic, to be followers of Christ. It does so in four steps:
- It places ultimate realities before us, such as the Four Last Things—Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell—and reminds us that we will have to give an account of ourselves to our God.
- This reminder of our ultimate encounter with the Lord urges us to peer within our own hearts and see where we are not lining up with His desires for us.
- Once we have examined our hearts, we are called to let go of the world’s false securities and live a life of holy integrity.
- Holy integrity enables us to live in expectation and readiness, knowing that our Savior is coming soon to take us to Himself. “Therefore you also must be ready,” Jesus says to us, “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour” (Matthew 24:44).
So why do we need Advent?
Because it enables us to “consider the proper order of our lives,” as Fr. Delp says, before Christmas comes.
In it we have another opportunity to get our priorities straight.
And although Advent comes once a year, it should be a “fundamental attitude” of life.
“More, and on a deeper level than before, we really know this timeFr. Alfred Delp, Advent of the Heart
that all of life is Advent.”
Yes, life itself is an Advent—and eternal life is its everlasting Christmas.
This article is a free sample from the digital series Great Advent, a powerful preparation for the season of Christmas. Subscribers have praised the experience of this spiritual journey. You can join them by signing up here.