Husband & Wife Articles

Advent – A Time of Blessed Patience

by Patrice E. Athanasidy

How do I explain Advent to my children when there are already Christmas bells and sales on the airwaves? This is the question I face each year as I try to follow the Church’s calendar by moving slowly into the Christmas season.

Advent – the four Sundays before Christmas – is truly one of my favorite seasons. Like Lent it is a time of contemplation and preparation. For me though, there is more hope in the season of Advent. I think it is because the world is in a festive and giving mood at this time of year. Our American Thanksgiving sets a perfect stage –
what better way to begin to prepare for the birth of Jesus than to take some time to be thankful for all that we have? So why do we rush right into Christmas without taking the time to enjoy the preparation? Why have some stores had Christmas music blaring while the trees were still full of gloriously colored fall leaves?

Patrice and William Athanasidy pose with their three children.

I call it “microwave syndrome.” We want everything to happen as quickly as a microwave dinner. We are not willing to take the time to wait anymore. That is what the season of Advent reminds us to do – wait. Christmas is still a month away.

Our house is quite hectic at this time of year. My children, Charlotte, 12; Peter, 9, and Kit, turning 8 in a couple of weeks, are all very excited to get the Christmas season started, but they are actually excited about Advent too. Since they were little we have had an Advent wreath on the dinner table. We light it on the nights we actually get to sit down to dinner as a family just before we say grace. The children take turns each night blowing out the candle or candles. Before we leave the table we open a window on the Advent calendar and everyone gets a piece of chocolate – one of my favorite parts.

True these are small gestures, but they make Advent real. My son Peter has an autistic spectrum disorder. There are times I am not sure he is following all that we are doing as much as the girls because his listening skills are still somewhat weak. Last year, on one of the nights he had to blow out the candles he asked if he was blowing them out for Jesus’ birthday. Peter has a habit of asking things that stop me in my tracks. I had never thought of it that way. Although the timing of Advent and the birthday are a bit off, I liked the imagery. He was putting it together — Advent, Jesus’ birthday, birthday candles. It made me realize how important the symbols of our celebrations are. The Advent wreath was helping my children think about Jesus and his birth and prepare for it at their level of understanding.

On Christmas morning we make our children wait just a few seconds longer for that commercial Christmas to come. When they run down the stairs and see the presents under the tree they know that they have to do one more thing before they can open them. They go to our crèche, find the baby Jesus hidden in the hay, put him in the manger and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Maybe that is what gave Peter the idea about the candles. Whatever the reason, my family is looking forward to this season of Advent – a time to prepare and enjoy the anticipation of the best birthday celebration of the year.

Patrice E. Athanasidy writes from Westchester, New York.