Advent is often treated as an "odd" time that happens just before the "real" celebration - Christmas. To a large extent it's a stressful, shopping period in preparation for the 25th of December. It's completely understandable that parents should want to do the "best" for their children. The question is, "what does doing the best for them", mean?

What is it that children want and need? As far as their "wants" go, they want everything they see being advertised on TV. They don't need all of that. What they do need are parents who care for them, parents who will spend time with them. They need parents who will behave as grown ups and say "no" when "no" is appropriate. Living in a home, where you get appropriate attention, where you know you really matter and where you're loved enough for adults to set limits for you, makes you a happy, healthy and confident child, with a bright future. None of the latest toys, computer games etc can do this for a child.
As adults we shouldn't be afraid to bring a touch of reality to Christmas. For those who are fortunate enough to be living in a comfortable home with all the basics provided there is no harm in reminding children and young people about those who are homeless; those who are living in cramped bed and breakfast accommodation or those who have even less and are forced to sleep on the streets.

But it's not only children who have inflated wants. Many of us grown ups will be tempted to go into debt to get what we "need" or to give what we think our friends cannot do without. When January comes and the bills start to arrive, the brief period of fun and enjoyment will come to a screeching halt.

Advent, invites us to step back from everything, take a deep breath and give ourselves time to reflect. Advent wants us to enjoy Christmas but without the madness that often leads to a bad head, depression and bills we can't pay.

Advent, is filled with hope, expectation and incredible excitement, because we are preparing to celebrate the birth of the one person who can give us everything we need. Jesus was challenged one day and asked, "Why are you here"? He replied, "I have come that you may life, and have it to the full." The strange thing is, that having "life to the full" means, letting go rather than grabbing everything in sight.
Advent invites us to make a journey, from the circle of our own self-involvement to a life shared with others. To do that, we have to let go of our own concerns and worries, to make room for the concerns of others. We have to let go of attitudes that cut us off from others and adopt a spirit of generosity which is irresistible to others. Advent calls us to a life that is "people centred" rather than "gadget centred"; a life that is inclusive and not exclusive.

Advent calls us to make God's Dream for us, a reality in our everyday lives.

But the real icing on the cake, is the long term view that Advent invites us to take. We look to the day when Jesus will return and fulfil completely all the promises made through his life, death and resurrection. Life has its tough times. We need hope to get us through those times, and that hope is the promise that all of creation will one day be transformed. The present selfishness that leads to injustice, war, the destruction of the planet and a deep pessimism in humanity will be overcome. Now that IS something to look forward to.

Fr. Martin




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