I trust you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope each of you had an opportunity to relax and spend time with family and friends during the break. It's time for that final push through to the end of the semester! Things are also winding down at the Catholic Student Center, with only two more weeks of activities. We have some light-hearted, fun things planned for you to hopefully provide a break from the stress of getting those papers and projects completed and studying for exams.
This week is our next-to-last Wednesday dinner of the year. Come join us at 6:30 for a home cooked meal. Afterwards, we have a holiday-themed activity planned for you. Those who participate will have a nice souvenir of their CCM family to take home with them over Christmas break, so you don't want to miss it! Next Wednesday, Dec. 5, will be our last dinner of the year, and our annual end-of-semester/holiday party, including our infamous "Grinch Gift Exchange." We ask people to bring a $5 value wrapped gift to share. Stay tuned for details next week!
I will not be in my office on Thursday due to a meeting at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Charlotte. The "Tea @ 10" discussion group will meet at Starbucks at 10pm.
Our "TGIF" activities are back on track this week! Bible Study at 3pm and Adoration at 4pm. Come for one, or both of these faith enriching opportunities. For our scripture study, we take an in depth look at the readings for the coming Sunday Mass. It's amazing how much richer your experience of the liturgy is when you have read and prayed with the scripture readings in advance. Come join our discussion!
A TIME FOR EVERY SEASON
Contrary to what some might lead you to believe, it is not Christmas yet. It's not even Advent (that won't start until this Sunday). But look around you and you'll probably find that "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." Every year, as Halloween approaches, you can count on retail stores putting away their pumpkins and getting out the Christmas wreathes, red bows, and artificial trees. People complain that "it's not even Thanksgiving yet!" but the retailers at least have an excuse. They are trying to sell products. If people want to have holiday decorations for their home, the stores have to have them available well before the holiday. And for many in today's society, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving, or before!
I saw my first Christmas tree glimmering in a neighbor's window ten days before Thanksgiving this year. That's a new record for me. Many families I know put up their Christmas tree the Friday after Thanksgiving. The "Christmas Season" begins when they see Santa in the Macy's Parade, and ends with a grand celebration on Christmas Day. But they have it wrong. The Christmas season does not end on Dec. 25th -- that's when it begins. We've been celebrating Christmas earlier and earlier in recent years. Many people I know in their 60s and 70s have fond memories of setting up the Christmas tree with their families on Christmas Eve, before heading out to Midnight Mass. One friend told me that he didn't even see a Christmas tree in his house until he come downstairs on Christmas morning to find his living room magically transformed into a holiday wonderland! (Mom and Dad must have been busy that night).
Of course holiday traditions change over time, and my family does not wait until Christmas Eve to put up our tree. I'm no Scrooge! But we certainly don't celebrate Thanksgiving as if it were "Christmas Part I." There is a whole liturgical season between now and Christmas called Advent, and we like to celebrate that with due reverence. Our practice has been to decorate our home for the holidays gradually over the Advent season, with our home getting more festive as we approach the day of our Lord's birth. We'll begin this Sunday with a simple Advent wreath, and by Dec. 25th we'll be in full Christmas mode!
However you mark the holidays in your homes, I encourage you to give each special time its due and not to rush ahead to the next celebration. The problem with starting our Christmas too early is that we miss the grace and joy that Advent has to offer; and when Christmas finally rolls around we are tired of it. The Church has a rich liturgical calendar full of special feasts and seasons; we should take care to live in the present, to enjoy the time that we are in and what it has to teach us.
This Sunday begins a new year in the Church. The two grandest celebrations in the Church year are Easter and Christmas, marking the Resurrection of our Lord, and His birth in Bethlehem. These celebrations are so important that we don't just mark them with a single day, but a whole season. Christmas begins on Dec. 25, and lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which this year will be on January 13. (I remember one year wishing a woman "Merry Christmas" the week after New Year and she looked at me like I lost my mind!) The Easter season runs seven full weeks through Pentecost. Each of these festival seasons is preceded by a more somber season of penance and preparation, Advent and Lent. The rest of the Church's year is filled with other minor and major celebrations marking events in the life of Christ, and celebrating the lives of the saints. It is important that we give each time and season its due.
As we begin a new Church year this Sunday, I encourage you to explore the spirit and traditions of Advent. Mark this special time in its own way. Keep the Christmas spirit as a spirit of anticipation, like you are looking forward to the arrival of a very special guest. Advent is indeed a time of preparation and anticipation. I have found in my time that the best way to guarantee a Merry Christmas is with a prayerful Advent.
God bless all of you!