First Week of Advent: Hope, Gratitude, and Simplicity

Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year. Catholicism has a lot of paradoxes, but one particular paradox is beginning the new church year towards the end of the calendar year. “I open at the close,” to quote Harry Potter.

So for this post and for the rest of my posts in December, I will write a series of reflections. On Sundays (or Mondays), I will reflect on the themes of Advent. I will also post what I believe to be my 12 best photos of the year, one for each month. Each photo will have a reflective post about what that picture meant to me. I hope that the pictures will inspire you to find your own highlights.

I started this year on a quest to live a more simple life. One thing I learned is that part of simplicity is being grateful for small things. I’ve gotten so used to big changes happening in my life, that I was short-sighted on all the little changes that were happening to me. The photos I took this year as part of my 365grateful challenge helped me put things in perspective.

Advent is another way of putting things in perspective. In the rush of shopping, travelling, and planning, Advent teaches people to wait. In this season of super-consumerism, Advent teaches us that we need to put others before ourselves. And the biggest paradox of the Advent season is that in a world where we yearn for heroes and justice, we forget about the King who came into the world to save humanity from itself and right the first wrong through his death.

The theme of the first week of Advent is hope. I realize that with the current headlines, it’s kind of hard to have hope, let alone be grateful. But let me share with you a very timeless quote from one of my favorite writers:

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. I simply can’t build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery, and death. I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace & tranquility will return once again.- Anne Frank

If there’s anything we can learn from Advent is that it’s always darkest before the dawn. Waiting for Jesus to return isn’t anticipating an apocalypse or the end of the world. It’s waiting for a hero to save the day. And until that day comes, we hold out hope. We think of all the things we are grateful for. And we ask God to let us decrease so that He will increase in our lives.