The Swansea School of Dance helped the crowd get ready for the Christmas lights to come on at the St. Joe’s Promise Festival of Lights on Nov. 20 at St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. Photo by Michael Swan

Advent: The season of waiting and preparing

By 
  • November 28, 2019

If good things come to those who wait, we’re in trouble. In the age of smart phones, Netflix, instant noodles and instant gratification, who waits? 

Mothers still wait, as they always have, a good, long nine months to meet their own baby. But in an aging Canada with 1.8 births per woman, we may find ourselves disconnected from the rhythm of anticipation and celebration that once punctuated family life with babies and baptisms.

But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Valeria Ayala, who works at the Archdiocese of Toronto, is anticipating a baby girl, who may well arrive on Christmas Day. The excitement is growing, and Advent is meant to foster that special feeling in everyone’s life.

“The word Advent means coming. Advent is something that is arriving soon. We have something coming up in our lives. We are expecting a special event,” said Anne Hales, a spiritual director at Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

Hales often leads retreats for seniors, whose sense of anticipation has shifted since their days of creating and raising young families.

“For the seniors it’s really beautiful. A lot of them will say this may be my last Christmas before I get to see this baby,” Hales said.

The spirituality of the Advent season requires us to shift from a sense of foreboding to a more hopeful sense of anticipation. 

At St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Advent starts with lighting up the darkness to counter the early sunsets of fall in Toronto. The annual St. Joe’s Promise Festival of Lights features kids, candy, music, dancing and lots and lots of lights.

Philanthropists Salah Bachir and Jacob Yerex have donated thousands of Christmas lights to ensure that their community hospital doesn’t sit through this season in the gloom.

“He (Bachir) wants to bring joy to people … especially at Christmas,” said St. Joseph’s Foundation president Maria Dyck.

For a student trying to make life in a dorm room seem a little bit normal, there’s nothing so warm and welcoming as an Advent wreath. University of St. Michael’s College students Maryrose Doucette and her neighbour across the hall Samantha Ramphal got together in the college’s Christianity and Culture Club to make their own wreaths, so they would be able to wait for Christmas with warmth and light.

Of course at St. Michael’s Choir School every fall is full of anticipation for the annual Christmas concert at Roy Thomson Hall Dec. 8. The rehearsals and practice get more intense leading to the big day. And that’s as it should be, according to Hales.

“Advent is about the living God coming to us. Jesus was born in ordinary surroundings. No need to look for the extraordinary, the spectacular or the miraculous during the Advent season,” she said. “Because God can be found right where we live in our ordinary, everyday lives, within our families, our places of work. When we look into each others faces, God is there.”

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