Few would disagree that we live in a busy and rushed society. We rush from one thing to the next; in the end, many of us are restless and tired, yearning for stability and peace in our community and family. You may have noticed that in our hurried society many stores have already decorated for Christmas, radio stations are sneaking in a Christmas song here and there, and even some of our own parishes have begun preparing [prematurely] for Christmas parties. ... In the midst of all this hurry, the Church teaches us to slow down, to be patient and to wait. 

What is the rush? Are we really so eager to get all the decorations up, celebrate the event and quickly dismantle all the decorations so we can move on to the next event? If we truly believe the Church is the sacrament of Christ in the world, then we must authentically celebrate the story of salvation as it unfolds in the liturgical year so that we can witness God’s profound love and mercy to the world. ... [I]t is so easy to be consumed by the hype of the “holiday season”: to decorate our churches and houses for Christmas, to spend more time shopping than in prayer, and to host Christmas parties before the season has arrived. I know it is an enormous challenge to remain faithful to the Advent season when we are surrounded by a society which, while claiming to be Christian, does not take the time to reflect and prepare as the Church calls us to do.  

As Catholics, we must celebrate Advent differently. ... Once Christmas comes, the season stretches far beyond the 25th of December. It continues until the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord on Jan. 9, 2011. We should leave the decorations which are testimonies to our joy up for the entire season. There is plenty of time for us to celebrate our joy at Christ’s birth and we should make the most of it.  

First, though, comes a necessary time of waiting and of preparation. The season of Advent refocuses us and reminds us that Christ has changed the world. ... May our observance of this season renew us and be an example of patience, silence, and joy to our hurried and anxious society. 

This is an excerpt from a pastoral letter by Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, first published by Intermountain Catholic.