We turn the page on our Gregorian calendars to the last month of the year.
We also turn the the page on our liturgical calendars to the first season of the year.
While there will still be a few hours left of November 30 when sunset comes, it will also be, in a sense, December 1.
Thus comes the beginning of Advent, which starts on the Sunday nearest today's feast which honors St. Andrew.
While the secular world has long started its Christmas preparations, we truly begin to "prepare the way of the Lord." The Advent wreath, which burns brighter as we draw nearer to December 25, becomes the first focal point of our longing for our Savior. The creche, a great gift of St. Francis of Assisi, traditionally is on display December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, without the figure of the Child; for as we hear St. Luke's accounting of the Annunciation, we now wait with the Blessed Virgin Mary for her to be delivered. Finally the Christmas tree, a great example of inculturation, shines its lights and ornaments for the first time on Christmas Eve, as the Word made Flesh is enthroned in the manger. While we have or may trim the house with other decorations in the next weeks, these still remind us "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."
It still is a penitential season, though not as "severe" as Lent. The need to "turn away from sin", to heed the call of St. John the Baptist, to "make straight the path" for the coming of Christ is ever present. The violet/purple of these next "four weeks" still reminds us of our unworthiness, of our journey towards perfection, of our lifetime efforts to be true disciples of He Who is, Who was, and Who is to come.
This is the great challenge of Advent. It is the echo of the call to be in this world, but not of this world. While we may celebrate with family and friends during this time, our true rejoicing comes with the announcement of the angel: "This day in David's city a savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord." (Luke 2:11)
Let us prepare well, so after we hear the angelic chorus, we may join the shepherds in seeing the newborn King.