Advent — the season of anticipation of Jesus Christ’s birth and preparation for His second coming is on the way. And to truly honor the meaning of the season, it can be helpful to focus on Advent’s key themes: hope, preparation, joy, and love.
Last fall, we were fortunate enough to speak with four Minnesota-based priests about these core themes. Below, we highlight some of our favorite Advent tips and takeaways from our conversations in hopes that you find inspiration to carry you through the Advent season and beyond.
The late Fr. William Baer entered the priesthood in 1996 at the ripe age of 39. When asked about hope during the Advent season, his words were insightful.
“Even good Catholics are strong in faith, but weak in hope; they’re battling for hope,” he told us. “Oftentimes when I’m taking Confession, I hear people asking: Is God capable of coming through on his promises? Is He up to the challenge? They talk as if the devil has more power over them than God himself."
His words were also striking.
“From my perspective, living without hope is to live in despair,” he went on. “Life is meant to be purgative, otherwise people can’t make sense of their condition. So, if we don’t line up with the souls that God gave people, we’ve created deeply discouraged people. So, it’s our job to remind people that heaven and hope lay ahead.”
So, as Advent draws closer, there’s no time like the present to take inventory of the hope you have in your life, he said. Hope is ready for your embrace — now, during Advent, and always.
Preparing for Jesus
After his secondary studies, Fr. Lenny Andrie of St. Therese Catholic Church in Deephaven, MN followed his faith and heart into seminary studies. He was ordained in 2013.
We asked him: When you think of Advent, what’s the first word or phrase that comes to mind? He quickly responded: preparation.
“The theme of Advent is simple: more preparation, more joy,” Fr. Andrie told us. “Anytime you have something that is going to happen in your life—a wedding, anniversary, birthday, moving jobs, moving to a new home, any transition—the more you prepare, the more joy you will have in the celebration.”
For him, this means taking your time to thoughtfully prepare for His coming.
“As Americans, we tend to do everything right away—put the tree up, put the wreath up, string the lights up, and so on,” he said. “However, it’s more meaningful to prepare intentionally and slowly.”
The end result? More joy—which we get to in the next section.
During our conversation, we discussed joy—and where he often goes to find it during Advent.
“All of the Luke and infancy narratives are very powerful—you know, all of the traditional Hallmark card passages,” Fr. Erickson said. “I often focus much of my time there.”
“But the Magnificat is perhaps my favorite,” he said exuberantly. “It’s a powerful hymn of joy. It’s a powerful hymn of seeing expectations being realized. And Mary, our Mother, begins to take a powerful focus in these weeks, and it’s so appropriate that her hymn [is] focused on.”
The takeaway? Look to your favorite readings to bring joy to your season.
For nearly 20 years, Fr. Joseph Johnson has served several churches around Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Currently, he serves as pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Louis Park, MN. When asked about how he and his parish honor the Advent theme of love, he said:
“We often focus on love in two ways. One is the receiving of love—and the [other is] gratitude for that love,” Fr. Johnson said. “As John 4:10 reads: ‘This is love; not that we have loved God but that He has loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation of our sins.’”
But one of our favorite insights he shared was a beautiful analogy.
“If you go out dancing, the only thing two people need to decide on is who is going to lead,” Fr. Johnson began. “Many of us say ‘I love God’ or ‘I’m going to love God.’ But really, He has loved us. He has the lead.”
“It isn’t about us loving Him,” he added. “The whole Christian life can seem so heavy with burden. But realizing that it is He who truly loves us can help us find the joy in being loved and the gratitude in being loved.”
So, if you ever doubt that you’re loved, rest assured that you are.