As our society has commercialized Christmas to the point of nausea, Advent is a welcome antidote. In fact, it can intensify the experience of Christmas. Like Lent (although, of course, not exactly the same), Advent is a time of penance, a time to clear out the spiritual junk we’ve accumulated throughout the last year and start again. It is one of my favorite times of the Church year. It has an austere beauty and is one of the wonderful rhythms of the Church that helps me to anchor my life more firmly in Christ. I usually attend the 5:15pm Saturday Mass, which at this time of year begins when the daylight has already vanished. The light inside the church flares valiantly against the darkness outside that presses palpably at the windows. I find this a powerful reminder of both the One we are waiting for and the people we are called to be. Just as Jesus is the Light of the World who “shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (NAB, John 1:5), so, too, are we called to shine amid the darkness of this world’s sin and suffering.