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Advent –preparing for Christmas

刊登日期: 2013.12.01
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

 This Sunday, we begin the season of Advent. We will take a few weeks’ break from consideration of moral issues. The reason for this is that our approach to morals has to do with responding to Jesus, who came to lead us home to the Father. So it would be good to take a look at the birth of Jesus as the foundation of our morals.
I am sure, just like in the United States, many businesses in Hong Kong have already put up Christmas decorations and advertisements for gifts that you should get this year for your family and friends. They even start playing Christmas songs to generate the atmosphere and the sense of urgency so you have to hurry, hurry, hurry. We need to do a different and better job of preparing for this historic event that changed the world.
During Advent, many churches put up an Advent wreath. It has 4 candles, 3 violet and 1 rose. They are meant to help us to keep track of the four weeks of Advent before Christmas. We light one candle each week, with the rose one lit on the third Sunday. It is called Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of Joy, because we are half way through Advent, and Christmas is right around the corner.
Another decoration for this time is the Jesse Tree. It is meant to symbolize the family tree of Jesus according to the Gospels Matthew and Mark. You could put a note to each day to designate different things one might do each day as spiritual presents to Jesus for His birthday. Whatever you may choose for each day, it is a good thing to evenly pace yourself toward the wonderful celebration of God’s love for us. We can never outdo His goodness. So, be creative.
Another popular decoration is the manger scene. It was promoted by St. Francis of Assisi as a devotional tool to illustrate the humble birth of Jesus. In my parish I insist that the manger in the church to be left empty for the first week or two, and then add the animals and shepherds on week three. Mary and Joseph will be put in the week before Christmas, and Jesus only from Christmas Day onward.
Of course, the most popular is the Christmas tree. There are many backgrounds to it. But I like to think about it as the tree of the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve ate and then started the whole sorry history of fallen humanity. The ornaments are as misleading as the fruit itself was. They look good and fascinating, but would not be good for us to eat.
One thing about putting up the Christmas tree: it would be good to put it up totally empty and each week put a few decorations on it and while doing so, say some prayers like “O, Come, O, Come, Emmanuel!” as Christmas draws nearer.
My most favorite Advent activity is to ask my students to write down prayers or things they want to say or do each day during Advent. They may do this at the beginning of each day or list it entirely at the beginning of Advent. Then they are put in a box decorated as a Christmas present. On Christmas day, they would place it at the Christmas tree or spiritually bring it to Christmas Mass as an offertory to Jesus.
You may have many other ideas that are good and wonderful. However you might like to do it, the idea is to make Advent spiritually-centered. After all, it is about Jesus.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!


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