Religious goods store is ‘teaching moment’ about Advent

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | November 20, 2013

BELLEVUE — Jeff Koss, owner of Beatitudes LLC, says operating a religious goods store is an opportunity to evangelize. “My store is actually a teaching moment,” he told The Compass.

Beatitudes LLC, located in Bellevue, offers Advent merchandise, including Advent wreaths such as this one featuring Mary and Joseph. Jeff Koss, Beatitudes owner, says his religious goods store serves as a “teaching moment” for customers about observing Advent and Christmas. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Beatitudes LLC, located in Bellevue, offers Advent merchandise, including Advent wreaths such as this one featuring Mary and Joseph. Jeff Koss, Beatitudes owner, says his religious goods store serves as a “teaching moment” for customers about observing Advent and Christmas. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

As the first Sunday of Advent approaches on Dec. 1, Koss sees plenty of teaching opportunities on the horizon. Koss opened the store, located near Highway 172 and Lime Kiln Road, in October 2012, just in time for Advent.

“One of the comments I got the most was, ‘Finally, I’m walking into a store that doesn’t have their Christmas tree up yet,’” he recalled. “They welcomed the fact that (Beatitudes) had Advent things out and were focusing on the coming of Jesus and … kind of turning off all of this other stuff that was going on out there. It was really well received here.”

About two weeks after Thanksgiving, when he did put up a Christmas tree, “it was hidden in a corner.”

Around Christmas, he moved the tree to front and center of the store. “Then I continued to play Christmas music and keep the tree up through Epiphany and people were surprised by that,” Koss added.

It led to conversations about the church’s observance of Advent and Christmas.

According to “Catholic Customs and Traditions” (Greg Dues, Twenty-Third Publications, 1989), Advent is a somewhat confusing religious observance because of its penitential and joyful themes. “It blends together a penitential spirit very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the second and final coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the Bethlehem event.”

The church seeks to make a distinction between preparing for and celebrating the Nativity, or birth of Christ, explained Dues.

The beginning of Advent, which continues for four Sundays, always falls on the Sunday near the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, Nov. 30, and ends no later than Christmas Eve. This year Advent begins Dec. 1 and ends Dec. 24. The church’s liturgical observance of Christmas begins with vigil Masses on Christmas Eve and continues through the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Jan. 12. Among other feast days celebrated during the Christmas season are the feast of the Holy Family, the feast of the Holy Innocents and Mary, Mother of God.

Koss, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Bellevue, noted that Advent and Christmas have special meanings and traditions for Christians and he tries to make this clear to people who visit his store.

“The biggest thing for me and what I would like people to understand (is that) Advent is one of those preparation times, when we need to prepare ourselves and put everything else that’s going on on hold,” he said. “All of that world stuff that’s kind of consuming us and taking our attention, try to (set it aside and) focus a little bit more on Jesus. Why was he born and how can we, through our baptism as Christians, be able to spread that out into the world and help other people understand that?”

Koss said he sees, in people who visit the store, a hunger to celebrate Advent and Christmas with a spiritual dimension. With items such as Advent wreaths and calendars, Jesse trees, children’s Nativity play sets and Advent prayer books for people of all ages, he is able to help them quench that hunger.

“Younger families are tending to go with more modern type Advent wreaths. A little bit simpler, like a Trinity knot or a Jesse tree,” he said. “The grandparents are buying (Advent calendars) for their grandkids instead of giving them a Christmas card. They will get them into Advent and focusing a little more on the season and what is actually happening, who is coming and why it is important.”

Koss said that lighting candles on an Advent wreath is his family’s tradition. “We use ours at the dinner table and it’s the centerpiece,” he said. “So it’s part of our mealtime and our ritual to … bring everybody together and make Advent more special. We take a break from the day and come back into, OK where are our roots and where are we coming from?”

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