“Advent is the time we are given to welcome the Lord who comes to encounter us, and also to verify our longing for God, to look forward and prepare ourselves for Christ’s return.”

Pope Francis

After the year we’ve had, I have been so excited for the holidays. I started a really long list of wonderful to-do’s at the beginning of November. I’ve always enjoyed the season, but this year I busted out the decoration bins early and even put the lights up before Thanksgiving. I told my neighbors I was simply taking advantage of the nice weather but truth be told, I was ready for some light. I was eager to create happy memories, restart old traditions, and who knows, maybe even invent some new ones. I wanted hot chocolate on the regular, the smell of pine-tree scented candles, and the traditional lineup of holiday-themed movies in a steady stream between now and Christmas day. In the midst of creating my holiday prep list last week, our team at Catholic Leadership Institute was blessed to have Bishop Gruss lead a morning of reflection via Zoom focused on gratitude and Eucharist. At some point Bishop referenced John’s Gospel in which Jesus said that he came to give us "life to the fullest." The next day at Thanksgiving morning Mass, my pastor referenced the same verse and likewise invited us to reflect back not only on the obvious blessings, but also on those moments we’d rather have done without.

As I looked down at my holiday season to-do list, I became aware of two things. First, it lacked any gift exchange of time with our Lord. Second, it had me pushing to create a different reality in order to escape my current one. It made me wonder, do I seek to celebrate the fullness of life God gives me? Can I wait for His rescue or do I seek to be my own hero? Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with pursuing some holiday cheer, but how can I empty myself this Advent to make room for the expectant hope only He can fill? The light of this season comes to us most poignantly in the dark. Am I willing to sit in the dark, even to give thanks for the dark, in order to truly welcome the light? I decided to defer the Christmas tree decorating until a little later in the month and press pause on "Dominic, the Italian Christmas Donkey." As we begin this Advent season, let’s give thanks for the fullness of our life, especially for the darkness that makes us long for His light.

by Daniel Cellucci

November 29, 2021

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