I spent the last week on my couch, hopped up on Sudafed,
near death nursing a bad cold. It couldn’t have hit at a worse time. Don’t those dastardly rhinoviruses (rhinoviri?) know I have things to do? I have presents to buy, halls to deck, cookies to bake, guest rooms to fix, not to mention an oven to buy. I can’t be sick! But since I am not the virus-whisperer I was flat on my back for the start of the Christmas season, and less than nothing was accomplished at my house since Thanksgiving. (Unless you count organizing my Pinterest boards. My house might be a wreck, but my recipes-I’ll-never-make and projects-I’ll-never-get-to boards are now ship-shape.)
Because I didn’t have the energy to do any of the physical chores I had lined up for the week, I had plenty of time to reflect on preparing for Advent, rather than just Christmas. I don’t know about you, but every year I have great intentions to live Advent well, but I get distracted by all the shiny things and twinkling lights. There is a tension between the “wait for it” of the Church and the “gotta have it now” of the secular world that makes easing into Christmas slowly, intentionally and prayerfully getting ready, almost counter-cultural. But we need to experience the dark to appreciate why we need the light.
Like Lent, Advent is a season of preparation through prayer and charitable works, though one of of joyful anticipation rather than penitential expectation. Every year, on the second and third Sundays of Advent, we hear readings about one of my favorites, John the Baptist, telling us to make straight the way of the Lord. I love John—his borderline-crazy enthusiasm for spreading his message of hope is inspiring. (Though when your cousin is the Son of God, living on locusts in the desert and preaching His coming doesn’t seem so crazy, I suppose.) John is a perfect messenger for Advent, directly challenging us to pay attention, get ready and make a straight path for the Lord in our lives and in our hearts. But we can so easily veer off that path, sidetracked by our perceived must-do’s and holiday stresses, and lose Advent too soon.
So what specific practices am I incorporating to try to keep my path clearer?
Like we did at Lent, we will be participating in Busted Halo’s InstaAdvent challenge. It’s a modern way to stay mindful of the season—creatively! (And readers, if you don’t follow us on Instagram, get on it! We have some fun stuff over there! Check out the sidebar for the link.) There is a theme each day, things like “hope” and “waiting” and even “hustle and bustle”—we will post fun and/or inspiring pictures to bring life to the theme.
More personally, I am going to take on the St. Andrew Novena, which began on Andrew’s feast day, November 30, and is prayed 15 times a day until Christmas. I had to be under the influence of a NyQuil-and-Ibuprofen speedball when I thought that attempting to pray 15 times a day was a doable goal. Fifteen times. A day. But the prayer is so beautiful–it brings me back to Bethlehem and the gentle, vulnerable mother and child each time I pray it. And I have a little “novena hack” that lets tech help me out. I put the prayer on the lock screen of my phone as a reminder—because heaven knows I look at my phone at least 15 times a day.
So no, I don’t have any Christmas decorations up yet, but they will come in time. I hope the anticipation of the beauty of the lights during this time in “decoration darkness” makes me appreciate them more. I’m going to try to move intentionally though Advent, to incorporate small “time outs” in prayer and charity to make sure I am the light of Christ for others this season. And to be truly ready for the blessings of Christmas.
Have a blessed Advent,
*Enjoy this adorable reminder of the season from our friend, Fr. Darryl, and Chloe!