Tips for enriching the Advent experience

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Photo illustration (Karen Callway/Chicago Catholic)

Sometimes the meaning of Advent can get lost in the parties and preparations for Christmas, but it is a time to draw closer to Christ in the quiet, according to Kevin Pease, director of the Scripture School at the Institute for Pastoral Studies at Loyola University Chicago.

This Advent, Pease is launching “In the Name of Jesus,” a yearlong online course for laypeople that digs deeper into the Sunday readings to help students grow in their understanding of the Eucharist and their relationship to Jesus.

Pease recently spoke with editor Joyce Duriga about the meaning of Advent and tips to enrich this time before Christmas. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Chicago Catholic: Would you explain the meaning of Advent?

Kevin Pease: I’ve been thinking a lot about Advent recently, of course. And what has been coming to mind is this idea of waiting and the virtue of patience.

Advent really is a time to celebrate waiting. I know that seems a little oxymoronic or perhaps paradoxical, because nobody likes to wait. If there are long lines outside of, you know, a restaurant, a bar, an amusement park, anywhere that we might be, we kind of are like, “When can we get in?”

But there is something special about waiting. And I think Advent allows us to turn our attention to what that might be. When we wait, it allows us to become more and more dependent on the God who waits for us, so there’s an exchange there. As we wait for God to act in our lives, we understand that God is always present to us, that we are allowed to sit in spaces of quiet, in dark nights, so to speak.

It’s very timely that the church has this season of Advent during the month of December when we are basically in the dark for multiple hours of the day. Again, it’s that sort of anticipation of, when will the darkness break? When will the light break? In that period of waiting, we find God present to us.

Sometimes the idea is that God is very far away and we have to do something to get to God. But Advent allows us to be with all of our emotions, as anxious as we might feel, or as excited as we might feel,  or as joyful or sad as we might feel.

Advent allows us to wait for God to be present to us in any and all of those emotions. In that way, it’s an extraordinary time, a very special time of the year. It’s something that most of us aren’t very good at right now. I’m terribly impatient myself.

Patience points to, I think, the real crux of the Advent season theologically. What I mean by that is that when we are in this period of waiting for God to be present to us, we’re ultimately waiting for the great Emmanuel, which is Hebrew for “God is with us” or “God is present to us.”

We experience that in the most joyful, glorious way on Christmas Day when we celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. It’s like that song “Silent Night.” It just speaks to, again, this quiet waiting and all of the sudden underneath the stars and the big star in particular, Jesus is there and the Magi are going to see him. Mary and Joseph are there, and they are just sort of being present together.

The waiting didn’t stop, you know. Now they’ll wait to see their son grow up. They’ll wait to see their son change over time in his human life, to grow and evolve like we all do. So there’s still waiting involved. But it’s a present waiting. It’s God is with us in every single moment of our lives.

Chicago Catholic: You mentioned that Advent also celebrates the incarnation of Christ. Would you explain what that means?

Pease: The incarnation is a pretty heavy concept. So incarnation simply means that God becomes human. It’s another word for enfleshment. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, John the Evangelist tells us that God becomes flesh, or the word, rather. God becomes human in this person, Jesus of Nazareth.

If God wanted to appear to us in the world, God could appear in any way, shape or form. God could be like the most spectacular of spectacles up in the sky or write all of our names, you know, in the clouds.

But God doesn’t do that. God instead chooses to become human — like you are human, like I am human, like we are human. That’s a statement, right? God is championing the human being. When God becomes human, when God chooses to become human, God is saying that humanity is indeed very good.

The incarnation is the ultimate testimony of God’s love of us, that God would want to be with us so closely as to share in our existence, to share in our human life with us.

Chicago Catholic: What are some tips you have for people to enrich their Advent experience?

Pease: I think there are some really good, practical ways to immerse ourselves in the season. And I also hope that these don’t sound either cliche or repetitive or rote. It’s simply because I really believe in them for myself and for my students. So the first way that I think we can practice having an incarnation of point of view in the world is to attend Mass as regularly as possible.

Going to Mass every day to receive the Eucharist is the best way to prepare for Advent, and that’s because it does allow us to form an incarnational point of view. So what do I mean by that? I mean that if we believe that the Eucharist is the Real Presence, the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, and that he offers himself to us in the Eucharist, it helps us remember that just as he became flesh for us incarnated, took on human life and human experience, we are also called to do the same. We are called to take on human experience in the flesh — with all that comes with it, all of the joy of being human, but also all of the sorrow that comes with being human.

If we are to do that well, if we’re to navigate those challenges, the best way to do that is to develop an incarnational point of view, where we take the life of God into our own body so that God’s life in us can better assist, support and help us live our own lives here on Earth, leading toward the ultimate reality in the kingdom of heaven.

The second way that we can concretely experience Advent better is by the daily readings that the church offers us. So every day we have a couple of readings. On Sundays, of course, we will have a first reading from the Old Testament, will have the Psalm also from the Old Testament. We’ll have a second reading from the New Testament and then the Gospel reading from Mark, Matthew, Luke or John.

The daily readings usually only have the first reading from the Old Testament, the Psalm and the Gospel. What I like to do is, the first thing I wake up in the morning, maybe after a cup of coffee or with a cup of coffee, is to open up the daily Mass readings and see what they are.

Before I open them, I ask God in prayer to please speak to me through the readings. So if there is something that God wants me to hear on any given day, with whatever I’m feeling, I’m like, “God, please help me see that. Please help me hear you and your word given to me, and also help me to help others hear you better.”

I read very carefully, very slowly, sometimes not just once, but two or three times. Just those daily readings. That takes me about 10 to 15 minutes to do. It is a conversation between me and God at the beginning of the day. I think it’s a very practical way to enjoy Advent. Daily Mass and daily Mass readings every day.

To learn more about “In the Name of Jesus,” visit People can enroll anytime during the year.


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