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Asking the Clergy: How does Advent prepare Christians for Christmas?

From left, the Rev. Wendy C. Modeste of

From left, the Rev. Wendy C. Modeste of United Methodist Church of Bay Shore, the Rev. Kevin O'Hara of Lutheran Church of Our Savior, and the Rev. Douglas R. Arcoleo of Our Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church. Credit: Composite photo: Jennifer Mercurio / Lasting Impressions Photography; Kevin O'Hara; Our Holy Redeemer R.C. Church

Beginning Nov. 29, many Long Island Christians will be celebrating Advent, the period that encompasses the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. This week’s clergy discuss the meaning of a season marked with such devotions as prayer and the lighting candles on an evergreen wreath.

The Rev. Douglas R. Arcoleo

Pastor, Our Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church, Freeport

In recent years, people (Christians among them) in the public square have widened the disconnect between the way Advent prepares Christians for the religious observance of Christmas and the way the weeks of December prepare everyone for other observances of Christmas.

The so-called holiday spirit tries to erase Christmas’ true meaning from hearts and minds, and the true purpose of the weeks leading to the celebration of Christ’s birth. Advent reacquaints Christians with all that has been erased. The holiday spirit may lead others to journey out in search of a bargain, but the Holy Spirit leads Christians to lockdown and journey in with help from the family Bible, in search of a treasure.

Both the holiday spirit and the Holy Spirit lead people on a journey through Advent. The holiday spirit, however, overwhelms, while the Holy Spirit overshadows and, with help from Scripture (a wife and husband, angels and a star, wise men and treasures), leads travelers to (re)discover the purpose and goal of life. Then, the Christian (in Linus-like fashion) can take advantage of the clean blackboard left behind by the holiday spirit, and guided by the Holy Spirit, tell the Charlie Browns of the world what Christmas is all about.

The Rev. Kevin O’Hara

Pastor, Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Patchogue

Advent should always be an "advent"-ure for our faith. In fact, both Advent and adventure have a similar root meaning: "to arrive." Advent points to Christ’s second coming — not particularly a Christmas that happened more than 2000 years ago, but rather Christ’s promise to come back to Earth to set everything right. This spins our understanding of how we celebrate Christmas, not as a past event but as a present (what is) and future (what will be) reality.

Our time of roughly four weeks reminds us that we need to consciously and continually put our lives in order, to stay ready for the promise to be fulfilled at any moment and to endure in our Christian calling. This is the adventure part; we are pilgrims on a journey always sticking closely to the marked path, much like the wise ones who traveled so far to see the Christ child. We’ve been in nine months of Advent as a world, waiting for this pandemic to come to an end. This year, Advent will be felt more palpably than in years past because of what we are experiencing. However you arrive to Christmas, may God’s blessings come upon you in your own adventure.

The Rev. Wendy C. Modeste

Pastor, United Methodist Church of Bay Shore

In a time of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety, Advent symbolizes hope, peace, joy and love. It marks the beginning of the church year, a time of anticipation and preparation for celebrating the arrival of Jesus Christ into the world and into our lives. The light of the world is near.

For United Methodists, Advent is a celebration of God's unconditional love for all of humanity. "For this is the way God loved the world: God gave Christ, his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Advent prepares Christians to honor God as we love and care for all persons, recognizing their worth and dignity. In a world that seems turned upside down, we are prompted to observe what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love thy neighbor. (Matthew 22:37-39)

The celebration of Christmas is the celebration of humanity. When we recognize that each person is of equal value regardless of their differences, we honor God, and we celebrate Christ's birth.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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