December 5, 2021 – Second Sunday of Advent
Readings: Baruch 5:1-9 / Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 / Luke 3:1-6
The following is a homily I delivered on these same readings back in 2018:
I want to talk a bit about traditions – specifically family Christmas traditions. We all have them. We may be embarrassed by some of them because they are a bit odd, but deep down we are proud of them and wouldn’t change them for the world. They may be odd traditions, but they are our odd traditions.
Our family is no different. I could talk for days about our family Christmas traditions, but in the interest of time I will zero in on just two.
First, there are the Christmas Eve “nachos.” I use air quotes as I say nachos because to call them nachos is an affront to authentic Mexican restaurants everywhere. If you promise to keep this between us, I’ll share the recipe:
- Step 1: Pour out enough Doritos to cover a cookie sheet
- Step 2: Cover the Doritos with Buddig brand thinly sliced deli meats – torn lovingly into small pieces
- Step 3: Add a generous coating of processed shredded cheddar cheese
- Step 4: Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the oil from the processed cheese is dripping onto the cookie sheet, or until you smell them burning…whichever comes first.
- Step 5: Enjoy!
Our family continues to share this delicacy each year. What began as a quick, inexpensive meal for a poor young married couple became a treasured Christmas Eve tradition.
Next, the sleeping arrangements on Christmas Eve. We have four children – two boys and two girls. Normally the boys slept in one room and the girls in another. But on Christmas Eve, mattresses were moved so that all four slept in one room. They would talk excitedly until one-by-one they were all asleep.
They were equipped with one walkie-talkie; I had another. When all four kids were awake on Christmas morning (usually sometime between 4:00-5:00 a.m.), they would call me on the walkie-talkie. I would tell them to hold tight while I went out to the family room and started a fire in the fireplace, and Carol got the camera ready.
The time they were asked to spend waiting was not a time of impatience but rather, a time of joyful anticipation.
When the wait was over, we would open their bedroom door and Carol would snap a picture of them before they all ran out to the family room.
I know you are all thinking how adorable this is as you picture four little children doing this. However, you should know that this tradition continued well into their teens. As a matter of fact, when our oldest came home from college her freshmen year, she was the first to ever ask, “Are we still going to do this?”
There are so many other Christmas traditions we’ve enjoyed – decorating the tree, making presents for Mom, driving around to look at Christmas lights in their pj’s…and talking about Jesus and His birthday. We also prayed together before we opened presents, went to Mass together, bought gifts for those less fortunate, and made it a point to say aloud how much we loved and appreciated one another.
For us, the weeks leading up to Christmas were full of expectant waiting – the excited feeling that something special was about to happen; and it always did.
To this day it is the traditions our kids remember and cherish – not the memory of presents they received. Now that our children have their own families, they have begun their own traditions because they have recognized the value such traditions add to the season.
What prompted this walk down memory lane was something I read regarding the season of Advent. It said: “If you’re sick of Christmas by December 25th, you haven’t done Advent correctly.”
Advent is a time of expectant waiting– the excited feeling that something special is about to happen.
Advent often gets lumped in with Lent. There are some similarities, but they are not the same. To illustrate the primary difference between Advent and Lent, we might use the analogy of housecleaning: Lent is spring cleaning – we purge and everything is scrubbed. Advent is getting your home ready for a special guest – we prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus.
Lent is a season of repentance. Advent is a season of joyful preparation – serving as proof that there can be joy in waiting. It is a season of hopeful anticipation. As we heard in Luke’s gospel, it is a time when the winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.
Advent is not only a liturgical season, but also an annual faith tradition. There is value in acknowledging and carrying on traditions. We use symbols such as the Advent wreath to keep our focus on what is to come. The word Advent means “drawing near.” As the birth of Jesus draws nearer another candle is lit, with each candle dispelling the darkness a little more. Thus, the Advent wreath helps us to spiritually contemplate the great unfolding of salvation history, the infusion of light into a dark world.
There are Advent calendars that call us to daily action or reflection. Each day suggests something we can pray about or do that takes us outside of ourselves.
Here at St. Pius, we have the tradition of the Christ in Christmas tree, by which we are asked to share our gifts with the St. Philip Neri community.
These Advent traditions are all focused outward – away from self and toward God and others. Honoring the traditions shows what we value as a faith community and offers us a sense of belonging – we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Traditions offer an excellent context for meaningful pause and reflection.
During this time of Advent reflection, the words we heard earlier from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians serve as encouragement. He wrote: This is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. Again, preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus.
Traditions are not just old-fashioned things we repeat out of laziness or habit; they help us discern what is of value. By honoring traditions, we are not simply going through the motions. We are not saying, “We don’t want to grow” or “We don’t want to change.” Rather, we are saying, “We want to remember.”
For the secular world, the time leading up to Christmas is focused on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, crowded malls, and long checkout lines. By the time December 25th rolls around, they are exhausted. They just want to pack away Christmas and be done with it.
For Christians honoring the Advent season, the time leading up to Christmas is a time of joyful preparation and hopeful anticipation.
“If you’re sick of Christmas by December 25th, you haven’t done Advent correctly.”