“Slow Down.” “Prepare.”
How many times have you heard this advice in terms of Advent? And how many times have you thought of this advice while frantically cleaning out the refrigerator of the remnants of Thanksgiving dinner or while hurriedly pulling out boxes of Christmas lights from the basement the day after the feast? Where is that Advent wreath anyway, and — oh shoot — why didn’t you think to buy more purple candles last year? Come to think of it, where is that Advent prayer booklet? Those darn kids have been rummaging through the storage room again. Why can’t they leave the boxes alone? And …
How can we enjoy a relaxed and prayerful Advent when we are so hurried, so rushed, so not present? The truth is, we can’t. We can’t focus on what’s important about Advent when we are so busy being, well, busy.
Do you wish to calm down and really experience the Advent season peacefully and joyfully? No one has the perfect formula for accomplishing that, but after many years and many children, and many mistakes of many days of rushing, I’ve discovered just a few things that have made my own life richer, fuller, and yes, easier and more prayerful too in the days before Christmas. Interested? Read on. …
Yes, your preparation will be better by doing less. Resist the temptation to create a personalized Advent calendar from a neat Internet craft site in 3D with the children. Defy the desire to fill the calendar with many Advent activities every day of the week. These things are not going to help you spiritually. Trust me.
Better to kick off the season with a family trip to Confession, then simply pull out the Advent wreath (buy plenty of candles this year so you’ll be set for the next five and always pack the Advent wreath on top of Christmas decorations so it’s the first thing you pull out), and light it each night after eating dinner with the family. Watching the flame flicker in the dim room while reading a Bible verse or praying the rosary will help everyone focus on the real meaning of and real preparation for Christ’s birth. This meal, this prayer will help you put your mind and heart where it should be. It’s really that simple.
I love praying the joyful mysteries, particularly this time of year.
The Annunciation: Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel and asked to be the Mother of God. The “fiat” of this young teenaged girl literally changed the course of the history of mankind. Do your teenagers realize she was about their age? Have you thought about how difficult this must have been for Mary to trust in faith? In what ways can we emulate the faith of this trusting young girl?
The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth. Mary, pregnant with Jesus, does not think of herself but humbly serves her cousin who is pregnant too. How do I reach out to others in service? Is my home an example of hospitality? Do I see interruptions from my family as impositions or opportunities to love?
The Birth of Christ: Jesus is born. Humbly. In a stable. A stable! The Son of God actually becomes one of us and is born in lowly surroundings. It is mind boggling, really! Do your children know the biblical recounting of this? Read it before you pray the mystery. Read it in front of your Nativity set so your smallest children can “see” it unfold before them. Quiet your heart. Ponder this. Think. Pray.
The Presentation in the Temple: Jesus is presented in the temple in accordance with the Law of Moses. “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” (Lk 2:22-24) This mystery teaches us to obey. Consider this: Jesus’ earthly family did not exempt even Him from obedience. What should this mean in our lives? What are our duties in obeying?
The Finding in the Temple: Jesus’ family discovers He is missing. Mary thinks He is with Joseph. Joseph thinks He is with Mary. What a normal family conundrum. They find Him in the temple talking to the elders. Finding Jesus. The fruit of this mystery is finding Him. Isn’t that what Advent is all about?
2. Love your family.
That’s right. The best way to prepare for the birth of Christ, for Christmas, is to ponder the Holy Family and love your own. Watch the words you speak. Are they kind? True? Necessary? Watch the actions you make. Are they gentle? Full of love? Does your spouse know of your deep love and commitment? Show him. Show her. Actions prove what the heart feels. This is why Jesus came to earth, incarnate, after all. He proved with action and substance His love for us. And the best way we can prepare for His coming is to follow Him and do the same.
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