By Sam Aitchison
The Church is Alive!
Amidst the twinkling lights, scent of evergreen and joyful conversation, the Advent and Christmas seasons awaken a sense of childlike wonder that knows no age. In mid-December, just before the holiday break, my school, Saint Louis University, celebrates “Christmas on the Quad.”
This special evening, filled with the beautiful sounds of the choir and tantalizing aroma of hot chocolate, creates an inexplicable magic. Students, faculty and alumni all gather to socialize and encounter the beautiful and cherished Christmas traditions ahead of the season.
The university president delivers a message, the voices of the choir soar and the crowd eagerly counts down to illuminate that grand Christmas tree at the heart of our campus. This joyous ritual, a celebration of the anticipation of Christmas, enlivens and rekindles a sense of joyful wonder in our lives.
One of the central themes of Advent is “readying the way” for Christ. Over these four weeks, characterized by the themes of hope, peace, joy and love, we gather our hearts — regardless of our strengths, weaknesses, joys or sorrows — to make space for Christ. He takes us into his arms and extends his love, compassion and kindness to us no matter who we are or what circumstances we find ourselves in.
Growing up, I often lacked an understanding of Christmas to some extent — Christ died 2,000 years ago, so how is he being born again every year near the end of December? What makes this event so monumental? The answer to this question has often presented itself to me in the little things — the warm feeling of a cup of hot chocolate on a cold December day, a renewed sense of love from a friend during the Advent season or the profound sense of community and togetherness during Advent Masses. All of these little things point to the Creator and give us a glimpse of his unending, everlasting and incomprehensible love that is fully alive and present today.
Advent is a journey of joyful and hopeful preparation for the birth of Christ — Christ being born for our world and being born within us. As we commence this sacred season, how might we “ready the way” for Christ to be reborn within us in a few short weeks? How can we foster a sense of “childlike joy and hope” to be transformed by the beauty of this season?
(Sam Aitchison is a sophomore at Saint Louis University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)