Advent: Preparing Yourself for Christmas
Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year, begins this year on Sunday, November 29. On that day, the gospel readings concern death and judgment. During Advent, we are invited to reflect on our lives: our sinful thoughts, words, deeds, and sins of omission, and to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas and at the Last Judgment, through repentance and amendment of life.
At this time of the year, it’s also common to read, or see performances of, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Perhaps this story’s popularity is due to the similarities between its theme and that of Advent:
A Christmas Carol begins with the words “Marley was dead…” Before long, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Marley, who is remorsefully and endlessly wandering the earth, and dragging a chain. When Scrooge asks about this chain, Marley replies, “I wear the chain I forged in life, I made it link by link… I girded it on of my own free will.” Then Marley asks, “…would you know the weight and length of the coil you bear yourself?”
Scrooge ignores this question and compliments Marley as “a good man of business.” Marley replies, “Business. Mankind was my business… charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were, all, my business.” Marley’s misery is caused by his awareness of the good he could have done, but did not do, in life, and his inability to ameliorate the sufferings of others, with the possible exception of Scrooge, now that he’s a tormented spirit.
After visits from the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come, Scrooge recognizes the many ways his sarcasm, avarice, and cold-heartedness have hurt others: such as his nephew, whom he derided as “poor enough,” his clerk Bob Cratchit, to whom he paid subsistence wages, and the destitute, when he turned away those collecting funds for them with the remark that perhaps they should die “and decrease the surplus population.”
He says to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, “Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed from, the ends will change.” When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge a tombstone, with “Ebenezer Scrooge” written on it, Scrooge realizes if he doesn’t change, he will die, unloved and un-mourned, and suffer incessant remorse, like his partner Marley.
Then Scrooge resolves to change: “I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been, but for this…” Scrooge prays to have his fate reversed and does change. He repents, visits his nephew, generously gives of his wealth and of himself to the Cratchits, and cheerfully gives to those collecting funds for the poor. By reflecting on his sinful life, and the prospect of death and judgment, Scrooge has been stirred to repentance and amendment of life. He is prepared for Christmas and experiences Christmas joy. This is the purpose of Advent.
At Christmas, and the eleven days thereafter, we should rejoice. And why? According to Fr. George Welzbacher, “Because Christ Jesus our Lord, God the Son, became man, who would, by His teachings and sufferings and death, open the gates of Heaven for all who would hear His Word and follow it.”
We volunteers hope that, by bringing the Word to you through our programming, you are inspired to bring “tidings of comfort and joy” to all you meet. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers at St. Michael Broadcasting: those who film, edit, post events on 14.1, screen programs, set the schedule, schedule the programs, manage the computers, manage the website and facebook page, pay the bills, send out thank-you notes, provide accounting services, and those who help with the monthly mailings. And on behalf of the volunteers, thank you, all our viewers and contributors, who make this possible.
Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas! Venite adoremus!