Welcome to the Porch of Advent…
Just yesterday, soul mate asked me if we had our labels all set to go for our Christmas cards. Christmas cards? Mailing labels? Set to go? Let the dither begin.
There are tons of things to do before Christmas. There’s the shopping and the decorating and the Christmas cards and the concerts; oh, and don’t forget Thanksgiving – the holiday that always seems to get short shrift. And why this is, truly baffles me. We spend more time on Super Bowl Sunday than we do on Gratitude Thursday, but I digress. There are tons of things to do before Christmas and they usually have the ability to upset my applecart.
All this shopping and baking and decorating (oh my!) can send one into a exasperating and overwhelming state of anti-serenity. Tidings of comfort and joy? I think not. Chiefly, the secular, frenetic pre-Christmas pandemonium can cause a disquieting schism in our hearts and can separate us from our deepest desire: union with Christ. It does not have to be so. In fact, Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom suggests something completely different. Advent is a time of waiting in expectant silence. It probably could be better likened to “nesting”: what a mother and father do prior to the birth of their new baby. Notice a pregnant mom in her 9th month. She doesn’t move quite so swiftly. She slows down. She rests more as her body prepares for the busy and sometimes sleepless days and weeks ahead of her as she cares for the new infant family member. The mom-to-be is not lazy or loafing. On the contrary – there’s a lot going on…on the inside. Advent, like the 9th month of pregnancy is a time to slow the outside down, while interiorly recollecting and waiting in expectant joy for the coming of something really special.
Just how do we do this, then? I have to “plan” to slow down? If you are anything like me, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes!” Spend this week and map out a plan. Like most plans, it should be flexible yet sturdy enough to keep you on a well-lit path. Invite God into your plan through prayer. Our Blessed Mother longs to help you as well. She has never failed to guide me closer to Her Son. Start with some simple things. Things you can do individually and with family and friends.
Between now and November 27:
· Start with a good confession – unclutter your soul; make room in your heart for His Holy advances
· Purchase your purple and pink candles
· Ready the Advent wreath and make preparations for its blessing
During Advent: November 27-December 24
· Attend daily Mass if you can; If you are unable, go one more additional time beyond Sunday each week. Many churches offer at least one evening Mass during the week
· Line up your devotions, the USCCB has a great free, downloadable guide available at http://www.usccb.org/advent/advent_index.shtml.
· Pray the rosary daily. Pray it alone, with your friends or with your family.
· Plan a retreat
· Fast once a week
· Be of service – be a light:
-Go a-wassailing! Sing Christmas Carols in your neighborhood or visit a local convalescent home
-Help serve meals or stock shelves at a local food pantry
-Adopt a family for Christmas and share your gifts with the poor
· Enjoy your family and really take advantage of the gift of Sundays as resting together
· Take time each day to ‘waste time with God’…sit in His Holy Presence before the Blessed Sacrament or at home in a private place where you can speak to the Lord in His favorite language: silence
“Advent is par excellence the season of hope in which believers in Christ are invited to remain in watchful and active waiting, nourished by prayer and by the effective commitment to love. May the approaching Nativity of Christ fill the hearts of all Christians with joy, serenity and peace!”
(Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 3, 2006)