In western culture, Christmas comes at the end of the year, just seven days before we celebrate new beginnings, resolutions.

We must remember that Advent is not a destination, but a season of waiting and anticipation.

In today’s consumer driven world we seem to have lost that sense of anticipation in favour of frenzied activity, focusing on gifts, decorations, food. This often leads to “Christmas burnout.”

Stress is at an all time high during the festive season, with people the average person spending about 13 hours shopping and an incredible 38 hours getting ready for the holidays.

Somewhere in all this hustle and bustle, we’ve lost sight of what the season of Advent should be: “…a period of devout and expectant delight” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).

We also forget that the holiday season is a time of great distress for many, particularly for those who have recently lost loved ones, those who struggle with depression or other challenges. The focus on busyness, the crowds, the lights and the noise bring their own stress.

It’s not always possible to shut out the world at this time of year, but let’s take time this Advent season to pause; to refocus on the purpose and meaning behind these weeks leading to the celebration of the birth of our Saviour.

As we light the candles each Sunday, let declutter our minds, find a quiet space to reflect on the journey through the Christmas story:

Hope – as we light the Prophets’ Candle we reflect on and celebrate the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. It is a reminder that Jesus is coming

Faith – we light the Bethlehem candle, symbolising Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and we reflect on what it means to have faith, event when life is challenging.

 Joy – the “Shepherd’s Candle” reminds us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus and the joy of accepting Jesus into our hearts and lives.

Peace – the “Angel’s Candle” reminds us of the message of the angels: “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” We take time to reflect on the peace that Christ brings to each of us when we trust and surrender our lives to Him.

We trust and pray that you will all have an unhurried Advent Season, with time to spend in quiet reflection, and that those who are struggling will find comfort in this time of anticipation and expectation.