Why Is Advent So Dark?

Parishes love to do things differently in the season of Advent.

Liturgy committees try to change up the scene beyond just the colors and decor. It’s a way to try to change our view from the familiar and jar us into considering Who is coming at Christmas.

One way I’ve seen a changeup in recent years is the dimming of the lights before Mass to suggest a more reflective, reverent tone when you enter the church. It makes sense with the literal dimming of the light. The winter sun shrinks our days and forces our car headlights on earlier and earlier. In that darkness we let things fall away so we can “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Because of the Advent readings this year, let’s say “Bah Humbug” to this practice. That’s what Isaiah is saying in the first week of Advent:“Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord!” In this darkest time of the year, let’s flip the switch, light up the night and make bright the path to Jesus Christ.

Here’s a few easy ways to do it in your neighborhood and faith formation programs:

Put those Christmas…er…Advent lights up right away. Thinking that it contributes to the societal view that Christmas is over and done with on December 26th, I’ve held off for as long as possible to “Clark Griswold” the house. Not this season, my friends. Have an Advent lights contest with your families on Instagram. Get the office and church hallway beaming with the brightest Christmas star possible. Make it blinding so that your young people feel like they are in a dream sequence called, “Walking Towards Heaven.” (In all this, though, burn no retinas.) Keep those Advent-turn-into-Christmas lights up ALL the way through the Christmas season. And even a little longer to let people know who lights our way. (It’s not laziness when it’s done with intention.) See who can make it to Super Bowl Sunday. I dare ya. Show those young people that the light keeps shining all year long. Your maintenance staff and light bill may eventually force your hand, but look me up at St. James in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin and let me know how far you make it.

Finally, turn on an extra light in your Advent faith formation sessions this year. Find the most retro, funky, filthy-ugly lamp at a thrift store and display it proudly in your rooms or office. Make sure that light is gaudy and outrageous. I’d love to see a pic of your crazy lamp. The crazier the light, the deeper the impact of the “Light of the Lord” in your life and the lives of your young people.

It would be awesome to see Catholic communities and families light up these darkest nights of Advent and beam brightly way past the Christmas season. And more importantly, it would be sweet success to see the Lord light up the hearts of your young people this Advent and Christmas season.

Bryan Ramsey

Bryan Ramsey is the director of youth ministry at St. James in Menomonee Falls, WI. Besides Christian formation for some 400 middle and high schoolers, there's youth group activities, inter-generational programs, retreats, service experiences, prayer nights, mission trips, conferences, fundraisers and plenty of other good things jammed into his ministry life. Plus, he is a youth minister's husband and 5-kid father. There's a lot going on there.


Bryan Ramsey


Bryan Ramsey is the director of youth ministry at St. James in Menomonee Falls, WI. Besides Christian formation for some 400 middle and high schoolers, there's youth group activities, inter-generational programs, retreats, service experiences, prayer nights, mission trips, conferences, fundraisers and plenty of other good things jammed into his ministry life. Plus, he is a youth minister's husband and 5-kid father. There's a lot going on there.



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