The Advent Spirit

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this time of the year is stressful for most women.  By nature, we’re givers, nurturers, organizers, homemakers; the ones who pay attention to little details, and the ones for whom hospitality is a gift we give to friends and strangers alike.  Because of this, the tasks on our very long to-do lists make us all a little crazy.

When my older children were much younger, I would work myself into a frenzy over Christmas preparations.  Dozens upon dozens of perfectly formed, labour intensive varieties of cookies would be baked a month in advance and stored in the freezer, ready for gift-giving and socializing.  My kids and I would handcraft tree ornaments and other homey decorations and the house would be decked out elaborately.  I made lists, compared prices and hunted down the perfect gifts for weeks.  There was nothing simple in my approach.

For some women, getting ready for Christmas comes naturally.  The tasks they set for themselves seem flawless, relaxed and picture perfect; not so for me.  Although I went through the motions and looked the part, my attitude was all wrong.  I worked towards a Home and Garden Christmas for no other reason than it looked good.  The only activity I actually enjoyed was making Christmas crafts with my kids.

Often I hear women complaining about all the things that still need to be completed before Christmas Day.  They admit how stressed they are and how much they hate this time of year.  I was one of those women.   In hindsight, I was being like biblical Martha. “Lord, look how hard I’m working getting ready for Your birthday.  I have no time to rest because I’m so busy, busy, busy.  Everything has to be just so.  I deserve a pat on the back.”  I was definitely “worried and distracted by many things.” (Luke 10:41)

Now, I’m not knocking poor Martha.  Things still need to get done.  Presents, decorated trees and Christmas dinner don’t just happen.  What I’m saying is that our attitude towards preparations ought to be in the right spirit, the Advent spirit:  the spirit of joyful anticipation and the peace of preparing to welcome the Christ child into our hearts and homes.  In other words, “the better part.” (Luke 10:42)  When I finally stopped rushing around, I realized that I had completely neglected the Advent season.

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In our home for the past few years, the Christmas rush is no longer welcome.  When the first Sunday of Advent arrives, we’re ready.  The Advent wreath, complete with new candles as needed, is given pride of place on the living room coffee table and the Advent prayers are pulled out of storage.  The manger is set up with the Kings,  shepherds, animals, St. Joseph and Our Lady waiting for baby Jesus.  The Advent wreath and nativity display remind us that no matter how frenzied the outside world becomes as Christmas Day approaches, in our home and in our hearts, we are silently, calmly awaiting the Saviour’s arrival.  I like to think that our home is a contemplative domestic church where Advent isn’t competing with the local mall or the latest decorating trend.  The only jostling that occurs is over who gets to light the Advent candles before evening prayers and who gets to blow the candles out afterwards.  The most important date on the Advent calendar is the one for the Sacrament of  Confession so that our souls are as ready as our home.

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The tree will be decorated with my children’s treasury of handcrafted masterpieces just a few days before Christmas, on my husband’s birthday.  The gifting will be reasonable; the company will be grand; the laughter contagious; the feast will be sumptuous but easily prepared.  Baby Jesus will be placed in the manger and we will sincerely wish each other a blessed and merry Christmas.  That’s as it should be if we prepare well, keeping the focus on our Saviour rather than on the world.

Deo Gratias

Linking up to the Advent Wreath Link-up at CatholicMom.com

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17 Responses to The Advent Spirit

  1. lilyboat says:

    A good reminder for everyone! I work right in the center of the shopping strip, and I see so many people caught up in buying presents, feeling so stressed out. It’s time to enjoy, to wait, to remember, to hope, to prepare. It’s the most beautiful season of the year, and it’s too precious to let the consumerism ruin our joyful spirits.

  2. Me says:

    Amen! Only, I am the nut that enjoys all the baking, decorating, crafts, and card writing. However, I do not like being dragged from function to function. Much like actively anticipating the birth of my children, I enjoy peace while waiting for Christ to come at Christmas. Ester day was our first evening home since Sunday to be able to light our Advent wreath. I want to super glue myself to the house at this point and delve into scripture.

    • LOL! I don’t think you’re a nut, although you may sometimes feel that way. I think it’s a gift to be able to handle all the preparations effortlessly. Super gluing ourselves to the house and reading scripture sounds wonderful….if only……..

  3. Me says:

    Yesterday…autocorrect isn’t so hot.

  4. irishsignora says:

    Amen! My house is a wreck, but it’s slowly being covered with little evidences that we are eager to welcome the Christ Child — a little cardboard manger, a closet door covered in angel wrapping paper, shakily cut construction paper stars, the family heirloom Nativity scene gracing the entertainment center in the family room. These are the things that matter, not the perfect hostessing — and it took me a LONG time to understand that it wasn’t all about the ribbons and cookies!

    Happy St. Nicholas’s day!

    Kelly

  5. dgcree says:

    Beautiful !

  6. You are so right. I feel drained half-way through December because of my self-designated extensive list of to-dos. Thank you for the reminder to keep Jesus first in priorities.

  7. reinkat says:

    This one really hit home! And my kids have all grown up and left. I need to think about this some more . . .

  8. I love the term “contemplative domestic church”! I’ve never liked gift shopping myself and the craft clean-up is waaay stressful but if you must know, your post on the nursing home got my kids to cut out cards and we delivered them to the patients in our local nursing home. Now that was special. Thank you for inspiring me so much. We’ll definitely make that one of our traditions.

  9. I don’t even have Advent candles or a manger out. I have to get candles and greenery for the wreath, get out the holiday box, and dig around. The manger is a ceramic one-piece item I don’t do anything with but find somewhere to put it. I haven’t even done that. And I have no kids. If I had them I’d do it for them though, I hope.
    I’m not even sure what “Christmas cookies” are. Are they just any cookies you make in honor of Christmas? Or just sugar cookies? Years ago my mother proposed making cookies for use as ornaments. I tried but I got confused. How do you use a cookie as an ornament? It’s very damp around here and if you put the typical baked good on the typical evergreen branch you would get a soggy, moldy mess pretty fast.

    • Pretty much anything a little bit fancier than chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies can be considered Christmas cookies. Sugar cookies, usually decorated with sparkles are typical, as are gingerbread cookies and fancy European cookies. There are recipes that are just for Christmas tree ornaments; they’re usually hard as rock.

  10. rcconvert says:

    I’m a Martha, so slowing down to experience Advent doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s worth the effort. I’ve learned that all the baking, wrapping and decorating, while fun for me, is not the point. But it’s taken me a long time to get here.

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