Friday, December 7, 2012

The "Yes" of Advent

I am pleased to welcome Sarah Reinhard to "Catholic Moms Talk" today. Sarah is a wife and mother, author and blogger. She blogs at and is the author of a number of books for families, including Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families and A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism.

The “Yes” of Advent

Some years ago, for reasons that I don’t even fully understand myself, I started walking around with a big bah-humbug chip on my shoulder.

I would grump my way through Advent, resist all attempts at smiling and celebrating anything related to the dreaded C-word, and pretend it was all okay.

And then, inevitably, I would find myself at Midnight Mass.

In our small parish church, wherever I was seated, I would smell the incense. The priest and procession would come, with Baby Jesus in their midst. Father placed Jesus in the Nativity, and Mass commenced.
Every year, I’d walk out into the crisp Ohio night after that Mass and somehow was changed. The bah-humbug chip would be gone, replaced by emptiness and a fullness that combined within me.

In my non-Catholic upbringing, the closest I came to the experience of Midnight Christmas Mass was in the before-bed singing of my Aunt Charlotte.

Aunt Charlotte was the only adult I’ve ever known who believed in Santa Claus and could make me believe. Somehow, I never really bought into it, unless I was with Aunt Charlotte. She had a way of making the magic of Christmas come alive, and she did it while teaching me about the wonder of the Advent wreath and the beauty of preparing.

Her belief in the magic of Christmas was really a faith in the truth of the Incarnation. She had a childlike simplicity in her approach—before she died unexpectedly a few years ago, she began asking me about my devotion to Mary. I struggled to explain it to her in a way that would share the beauty of my love for Mama Mary with her—in a way that would make it as real as the trust she had in Jesus and Santa.

Christmas Mass makes me think of Aunt Charlotte and Mama Mary in equal measure. And getting to Christmas Mass, through the journey of Advent, has made me struggle to throw that grudge away from me.

I want to enjoy this season of light and joy. I want to be ready for the King.

This year, I think I’m going to be closer than I ever have been. I’m blaming my kids for this: my seven-year-old has been reminding me of Aunt Charlotte this year.

On the one hand, my seven-year-old has it firmly in mind that it is Advent. She knows it’s not Christmas.

And yet, she’s not afraid to have fun, to laugh, to enjoy herself. She’s been regaling me with her opinions and thoughts about Santa’s love for children in ways that hearken to my aunt.

Each evening, my seven-year-old reminds me that we need to light the Advent candle. She’s interested in what this week’s focus is, in what we’re preparing for, in what this journey is leading to.

Her insatiable curiosity is inspiring in a way I haven’t felt since I was slightly older than she is, and Aunt Charlotte grabbed my shoulders and turned my head. With excitement in her voice, she exclaimed, “Look! In the sky! Do you think…?”

It’s really about a Yes, isn’t it? For me, it all comes back to the Annunciation, to that young girl who said Yes to God’s incredible proposal.

Can I say Yes this Advent? More importantly, will I?


  1. It's so special to have family memories come back so vividly to you at this time of year. God bless Aunt Charlotte!

  2. Hi Sarah! I love that your little one has connected you back with your sweet aunt. The spirit can move in and out of time and touch us in the most unexpected and wonderful ways! God bless your Advent, and the Christmas that follows. :)