One of the many blessings of a Catholic education is that students are allowed to celebrate the Christmas season, and they are given the intentional opportunity to prepare for Christmas during the season of Advent. Their wonder and delight is a precious reminder of the blessing the season of Advent affords to us.
It can be so easy to let Advent fly by without taking much time to stop and reflect on the gradual coming of the Messiah or the enormity of our Savior’s humble entrance into our broken world. Thus, to prepare our children’s hearts for the coming of the baby Jesus, our Catholic schools make celebrating the season of Advent a priority. Our Catholic schools help our students to understand that the real reason for our expectant joy leading up to Christmas is not hope of the presents under the tree, but rather the hope and gift of Jesus Christ — the light of the world coming to transform us so that we can transform our families, our schools and our world.
Our Catholic school students hopefully wait and reflect as they light the candles of Advent wreaths and hang ornaments on Jesse Trees to remember Jesus’ entry into the world. Our Catholic school students give of themselves in service to others in meaningful ways to reflect Christ’s gift of himself to us and to remember our responsibility to share the light of Christ with the world. Through the sacraments and prayer, students prepare a place in their hearts to welcome the Christ child.
As Advent progresses and the number of days to Christmas decreases, our Catholic schools become even brighter beacons of hope of the true message of the coming of the baby Jesus at Christmas. Christmas trees stand tall, lights twinkle softly, and Nativity scenes with empty mangers remind students that faithful waiting is not always easy, but it can be immensely rewarding. They sing Christmas carols and perform plays that tell the good news of Christ through beautiful music, bold words and sacred lyrics. At Catholic schools, our students have the opportunity to experience Advent and Christmas through eyes of mercy and eyes of faith. And that is what brings the Nativity scene to life on Christmas Day.
In a world needing much hope, I encourage you to take time to remember what this season was like as a child and to remember the expectant hope of Advent and the beautiful joy of Christmas morning. Maybe the lights seemed brighter, the trees taller, the presents bigger, the joy — greater. Maybe baby Jesus in the manger seemed a little more real. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Church never tires of singing of the glory of this night,” and may we never tire of opening our hearts to the gift of God’s love.
From all of us at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Merry Christmas to you and your family! May God bless you with his peace, love and joy in the year ahead.