So, here we go . . . the mad dash to Christmas. I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of people (perhaps you were there yourself) waiting in line in the middle of the night to begin shopping.
Added to the frenzy this year was the dismantling of the firewall around Thanksgiving. This holiday has traditionally been most pristine in observing family traditions — the parade, visits to grandparents, football, the table, the turkey, the prayer (“okay everybody say what you’re thankful for.”)
Not anymore. It’s just like any other day now. “Stores are open for your shopping convenience. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping. Have that turkey, then join us for our huge holiday savings!”
One poor fellow was quoted in the paper, “I know it’s Thanksgiving but I have to buy my kids some stuff.”
There’s a remedy for this. It’s called Advent. The next two weeks will finish our time of waiting, reflecting, praying. These final days provide a time for our hearts to soften and a freshness to life restored. It is a time of expectation, like people’s happy buzz in the theatre before the curtain goes up. Please, please don’t go rushing about trying to create television’s version of “happy holidays”. So many of us are sick of Christmas by the time it arrives. How sad.
So how do you celebrate “waiting”? What rituals accompany “expectation”? One way is by experiencing what we call “less”. Or another way to express it . . . “without”. Here are some suggestions to help these final days of Advent waiting.
- Avoid the “Christmas Specials” on television. The ones that have Santa and huge happy endings with everyone singing and clapping. It’s not Christmas yet.
- Avoid listening to the popular carols (Jingle Bells, We wish you a Merry C, Joy to the World, Silent Night, etc.). Christ hasn’t come yet. Handel’s Messiah is great Advent music.
- “Small”, “Quiet”, “Slow” are good. (Big, Loud, and Fast tends to get us tense and anxious.)
- Red and gold throughout the house says Christmas . . try silver, blue and purple during Advent. (I sound like Martha Stewart!!)
- “Secrets” are great ways to prepare for the Christ Child. Do something really nice for someone. Do it in such a way that they will never discover you were the one who did it!
- Lower your expectations. This will NOT be. .”the best Christmas ever!” It will be good and Holy in just the way God wants it to be for you . . . if you practice the Advent spirit.
- Teach the children/grandchildren to appreciate the small and humble way God chose to come to us. Find some small little task to do with a child to “get ready” for the Feast. (Come light a candle in church and say a prayer).
- Sadness often comes at Advent. Eventually, we are reminded of some loss we have suffered. Let any Advent sadness we have be for someone else not for ourselves. There is always someone who suffers more than you. Pray for them in the midst of your sadness.
- You are your best gift to others. You can bring a new freshness to your affection for people. Let yourself be renewed by the wonderful quiet and smallness of Advent.
Go slow. God bless you
“We constantly need to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends upon it.”
(Pope Francis, MV.2)