|Ryan Davis places a paper flame on the advent wreath surrounded by his eighth grade classmates at St. Ann School in Nashville. Cathy Sharbel teaches the class. Photo by Rick Musacchio
As the days count down to Christmas, and the pace of the holiday season kicks up a notch or two, people are bombarded by advertisements and commercialism as they race from store to party to store again getting ready for the holidays.
All the activity can distract people from the religious foundations of the season. “With everything that comes along with people getting ready for Christmas, it’s definitely a challenge for all of us,” said Father Mark Nolte, pastor of St. Edward Church in Nashville.
But Father Nolte’s parish is offering a program, called Refuge, as a way to step back from the bustle and settle quietly with God. “That’s why we wanted to do this, to give people a reprieve from all the demands we find in our lives and come and find rest in God’s presence,” Father Nolte said.
At 6:45 p.m. every Tuesday, people are invited to spend an hour in adoration of the Eucharist while listening to praise and worship music. Father Nolte and his associate pastor, Father Daniel Reehil, then provide a reflection on aspects of people’s prayer and spiritual life to help them grow in their relationship with Christ.
“Advent is a good time to think about those things,” Father Nolte said. “It’s perfect for Advent.”
For the first week of Advent, which this year began on Sunday, Nov. 30, “I talked about the importance of waiting, the value of waiting, how we can find joy in waiting on God,” Father Nolte said. “Advent is a season of waiting and joyful anticipation in His coming, not only in his birth but all the different ways He comes to us every day,” as well as preparing for His final coming.
“The joy we find in waiting is knowing that in that waiting we are not alone in the waiting, that God is with us,” Father Nolte said. “That’s where we find that joy, knowing that God is with us.”
In Catholic schools, religion and theology teachers are also trying to fight through the commercial clutter of the season to remind their students to keep Christ in Christmas.
In Cathy Sharbel’s religion classes for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students at St. Ann School in Nashville, she has been talking to the students about not forgetting Christ in the midst of all the activity.
Her students are quick to recognize all the ways Christ is often de-emphasized during Christmas by the secular culture. “They see the importance of the Church giving us this season where we remember it is about Christ,” she said.
Even as we celebrate with friends and family, “we need to remember that Christ needs to be at the center of that,” Sharbel said.
“In liturgical ways we try to help our students understand the season is about Christ, not about the commercial Christmas we get bogged down in, not about Black Friday but about Christ,” said Deacon Brian Edwards, a theology teacher and campus minister at Pope John Paul II High School.
During the first week of Advent, he took one of his freshman theology classes to the school chapel for a meditative prayer with the theme of prayer, preparedness and their relationship with Christ. “I was really surprised how deeply some of them got into it,” he said of his students.
“Advent is about preparing for the second coming of Christ, ultimately,” Deacon Edwards said. “It’s more about living the present coming of Christ through our sacraments. We’ve already been made a gift of Christ in the flesh. (Advent is) to realize the gift we already have, His current presence.”