DR MICHAEL SLATTERY: Advent and Christmas

“Christmas is a-coming and the ducks are getting fat. Please, put a penny in the old man’s hat; if not a penny, then a halfpenny will do and if not a halfpenny, then God bless you!”

Anyone old enough to remember that rhyme? Well Christmas certainly is coming. Besides the lights of the City’s decorations being turned on, a light of another kind was lit last Sunday and that was the first of four candles on the Advent Wreath. Next Sunday the second candle will be lit; the two remaining candles identify that there are only two more Sundays before Christmas Day.

Our course, the season of Advent marks the beginning of the Church’s Liturgical Year and the main characteristics of the season are waiting, hope and renewal. Time Management Experts would tell us that there are two types of waiting namely, passive and active. Passive waiting is somewhat like being at a bus stop; there’s nothing much you can do except look up every now and again to see if the bus is coming or watch the passing traffic or read a book, etc. Active waiting could be likened to preparing for a guest to come and visit us in our home. Our eye is on the clock as we tidy the house, prepare some food and other refreshments, put some flowers into a vase and, generally, consider what would please the person coming to visit.

It’s fairly easy to equate the latter form of waiting with our own preparation for Christmas.  No doubt we are busy with Christmas cards, the purchase of special foods, the saving for presents and the search for the traditional stocking. The Christmas tree will reappear with its decorations and lights and the countdown will begin for the Big Day. All great fun of course but will there be a parallel focus on whom we are waiting for.  The Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament gave us this reminder,

“People were walking in the dark when they saw a bright light.  A light came to them to brighten their dark land. You have made them very happy they will never be sad again. A child is born. A Son given to us.  He will be wonderful.  His name will be the Prince of Peace. He will tell us what to do and we will find Peace.”

The light of the Advent Wreath is a symbol of Jesus coming and is a wonderful example of active waiting: one candle to be lit this week and so on. Perhaps along with the Christmas tree could come a crib with the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph and some of the animals; maybe some Christmas cards could have a Religious theme and possibly we could write the word Christmas in full so that Christ’s name is not replaced by an “X”.

Whatever we do to prepare for Christmas, no doubt it will be done in a spirit of thoughtfulness, love and care and no doubt God’s blessings to us would be according to our true needs.

“A little child, a shining star

A stable crude, a door ajar.

Yet in that place, so bare, forlorn

The hope of all the world was born.”

Best Wishes for a joyous and Peace-filled Christmas.

Dr Michael Slattery Image
Dr Michael Slattery

Dr Michael Slattery is the Director of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.