Dec. 2 is the first Sunday in Advent, Year A. Pope Benedict XVI will start the new liturgical year on Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Parish features submissions from parishes of their “Best Parish Practices.” Father John Johnson of St. James the Greater parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis describes his parish initiative in which parishioners look out for and meet potential parishioners who have moved into the area. They get a letter and a welcome basket. More than 70 gift baskets have been given out and dozens of new, young parishioners have gotten involved in the parish.


The Advent section of this week’s Register offers Advent wreath prayers and daily “Jesse Tree” readings in salvation history. offers our own Advent family practice. Click on “Resources” then on “Gift Box Under the Advent Tree.” We put a gift box in our living room (or under our bare Christmas Tree, when we get it) and put slips of paper in it. The children pick a piece of paper each morning. The papers remind them of gifts they have been given (such as family, the community, food) and assign them an Advent practice (complimenting a family member, thanking a police officer, offering up a treat.)


A Christmas Carol is very appropriate for the beginning of Advent. It can help inspire the reform of life necessary to properly welcome Christ. On DVD, we like the George C. Scott version. But why not read Dickens’ story aloud, as a family, before watching a film adaptation? Or see if your local library has an audio version of the novella on tape or CD.


Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalms 122:1-9, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:37-44. provides free weekly homily packs.

Our Take

The Old Testament readings are full of joy about Christ’s coming. Streams of people go to the Lord, asking him to instruct them. God becomes the peace-maker deciding conflicts. Nations repudiate war and live in harmony. In today’s Psalm, we sing “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”

But the New Testament readings are stern warnings about the Second Coming. St. Paul’s letter is a literal wake-up call. “It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. … Make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” In the Gospel, Christ says: “You must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The Old Testament readings are full of cheer because the prophecies are pointing to a “way out” that will be offered by the God of second chances.

The New Testament readings are full of warning for those who have taken up God on his second chance: We must stay true to the new life we have accepted in Jesus.

The readings point to the deeper meaning behind Advent and Christmas.

The purpose of Advent is to reform our lives in preparation for Christmas. But we know Christ has already come. So the whole exercise is meant to remind us that we need to reform our lives in preparation for something that hasn’t happened already — the return of Christ, our judge, when we least expect it.

The Hoopeses are

editorial directors of

Faith & Family magazine (