By FATHER EARL MEYER

Special to The Hays Daily News

Today is Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. The term "Black Friday" originates from the hope of retailers that Christmas sales will keep them "in the black." Today, merchants watch, wait and wonder about their business.

This Sunday, we begin Advent when Christians watch, wait and wonder about the birth of Christ.

Modern society offers so many pre-Christmas activities -- many of them good and wholesome -- that we are easily distracted from the meaning of Christmas.

Of all the villains in Dr. Seuss' books, perhaps the most despised is the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. The Grinch was "a bitter, angry creature with a heart two sizes too small." He tried to prevent Christmas from coming by stealing all the Christmas presents and the holiday decorations. The narrator of Dr. Seuss asks, "Was there ever a creature so cruel?"

Christians might answer, "Yes, the Grinch who stole Advent." This Grinch doesn't pilfer presents or destroy decorations. He encourages haste, hurry and hype. He picks the fruit before it is ripe. What he steals is the waiting in wonder, the longing of the heart and the magic of dreams. He denies us the awe of anticipation which should quietly prepare our spirits for a joyous celebration of the birth of Christ. He is busy already in the marketplace, the home and even in some holy places.

When you were a youngster and could not resist snacking before supper, your mother would chide you by saying, "Don't spoil your appetite."

Don't spoil your spiritual appetite. Don't spoil the inner hunger for celebrating the mystery of the birth of Our Savior. You should wait, not impatiently but expectantly. Only a mother can fully grasp the meaning of Advent, since Christian tradition encourages us to wait during Advent as Mary, the mother of Jesus, waited.

Mary waited during the first Advent for the birth of her divine son with a confident trust that God's grace would prepare her for the first Christmas.

"Let it be done to me according to your word." -- Luke 1:38.

She did not wait absorbed with her own concerns. She went to assist her cousin Elizabeth who was in need. Despite her own challenging situation, Mary found time for another.

Mary teaches us this Christian paradox: In helping others, we help ourselves. In making Christmas for others, we make Christmas for ourselves.

During Advent, Christians are to wait with Mary, as Mary waited.

The Grinch who stole Christmas managed to steal all the Christmas presents and decorations, but Christmas came anyway. He then saw the error of his ways.

The Grinch realized Christmas is more than just toys, trees and tinsel, and "his heart grew three sizes larger."

May our hearts grow steadily during this season of quiet waiting. In the Advent Preface we pray, "In his love, Christ has filled us with joy as we prepare to celebrate his birth, our hearts filled with wonder and praise."

Earl Meyer is a Capuchin Franciscan priest at the Capuchin Center for Spiritual Life at Victoria.