We walked into church through the two large glass doors staring straight at the altar. We normally go in the back side door and quickly slip into one of the last pews. But not this past Sunday. As I looked down the isle to the altar, I was suddenly filled with a strange courage. I kept walking, closer and closer to the front with John carrying Sue behind me. And three rows from the altar, I genuflected and decided, today, we will sit at the front of the church!
I wanted to see the Advent candle lit, I wanted to be a part of the mass and not hide in the back pews. But as soon as I realized how close we were to the action, I dropped the kneeler and said a desperate prayer, “Jesus, please keep Sue calm during the mass, please let this go smoothly, please, please, please.” It was only a few weeks ago that I ran out of church in tears with my little girl in my arms scared on how I will manage two children!
The bells rang and everyone stood up. I held Sue as the priest and deacon and the Eucharistic ministers proceeded down the isle. Sue was fascinated by the procession.
My heart leapt with joy as I saw the Advent candle lit! I was right there to hear the prayer and see it all. I felt like a little child at Disney being close to the action and seeing her favorite princess close up! I didn’t realize how much I’ve been missing sitting so far back.
The entrance hymn of Come Oh Come Emmanuel was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. As I’ve been researching more about Advent, I realized WHY we’re signing these songs! Knowing the reason behind our actions makes them so much more beautiful. We have even started Advent traditions in our home!
John asked me if I noticed anything new in the pews.. and I happily said “Happy New Liturgical Year!”. The missals were new with crisp, clean covers.
The decorations were different in the church with signs saying “Come Emmanuel” and one with Advent candles. Purple was everywhere and a little empty crib was the center of focus in front of the altar.
The readings were read and Father gave a moving homily. He referred many times to the empty crib asking us if “we have made a place for Jesus?” Do we have space in our lives and in our hearts for God? Or are we so busy and distracted by the world running to buy Christmas gifts, decorating the house and attending Christmas parties? Is the space we have for Jesus at the center of our lives, as the little empty crib at the center of the church? Or shoved behind the Christmas tree and stacks of wrapped presents?
Ah, it was a beautiful homily. And I heard every single word! I haven’t heard a homily in months, although we go to mass weekly. Sitting in the front has made all the difference. Little Sue sat on my lap and stared straight into Father’s eyes. She ate her nature valley granola bar and drank her bottle of milk. 8:00 AM mass is pretty early for her and she got dressed half asleep while still laying in her crib. But she was an angel!
I was almost in tears of how thankful I felt that I was able to be fully present for a mass with my little family by my side! This first Sunday of Advent was truly beautiful and moving. It felt like a gift from God!
I know not every Sunday will be like this and I hope to have the courage again this week to sit in the front of church. Say a prayer for me to be strong and get close to Jesus during this Advent season! I’ll let you know how it goes!
Have a happy Advent, I hope you have a few traditions you celebrate too! …… “Do you have a little empty crib in your heart?”
*If you’d like to join me in sharing your Advent Sundays, you’re welcome to download the header images*