There’s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod:
Prepare in the desert a highway, a highway for our God!
The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills brought low;
make straight all the crooked places where the Lord our God may go!
~ THE HYMNAL 1982
This past year has gone way too fast. Faster than any year that I can remember. Of course, I have been sick since August and didn’t feel very well for the first part of the year. I was sick then, but I didn’t know it as I had not been diagnosed. Being sick has taken up a lot of my time and energy. I travel through time much slower than I am accustomed to travel. I’m even trying to draft my writing on a yellow pad rather than my computer. It’s slower and will, maybe, help with my concentration. I’ll see.
We are mostly through the first week of Advent, the beginning of the Church year, and rapidly approaching Christmas. Most people have finished their decorating. Parties are taking place. We frantically try to keep up with it all – the shopping, wrapping, finish decorating, meal planning, baking, cooking, cleaning, choir and pageant practice, etc. The world is already celebrating Christmas while the Church is preparing for the royal birth. Preparing is what Advent is about. And, it’s true, all that shopping, wrapping, etc., has become part of it for many of us. We’re preparing, aren’t we? Maybe or maybe not.
For me, it would be “not”. I would just get it all done, and Christmas would be over. What is it I was preparing for? Has the prep time just been more chores piled on top of my regular routine? I don’t believe the season is supposed to be like that. Did I – did we ever slow down enough to feel the excitement of Jesus’ coming into the world. Did we take time to prepare for him? Did we ever sit like Mary and ponder what this all means to us? All of the busy work and my soul begins to feel empty.
Many years ago, I don’t remember when it began, I decided Advent was going to be different. I wanted to slow down my preparations and take time to enjoy the season. On the first Sunday of Advent, we put up the tree. Our trees have grown in a factory for many seasons rather than in a forest or tree farm. No theological reason for that. I’m just allergic to evergreens when I touch them. Anyway, our tree is up now. It’s not decorated because I start that the second week of Advent. It did, however, grow with lights already on it which I would have put on the second Sunday. The decorating of the tree and of the house will be finished on Christmas Eve.
My Advent candles are out, of course, and we light them every evening. Tomorrow, I’ll dig out the nativity set. I’ll set out the manger, empty of course, except for a turtle, a Cursillo chicken, and a few farm animals. I would put out the spider, so it could decorate with its webs, but it is bigger that the baby Jesus, so I decided against it. The shepherd is out on the hills watching the sheep and the Magi are far, far away. On Christmas Eve during the day, Mary and Joseph arrive. Jesus is in a small covered dish on the shelf below the nativity set. He will arrive in the manger after Christmas Eve Mass and the shepherd and other animals will move in to adore him. The angel that has followed Mary and Joseph is now in the barn with them.
I bake very little anymore, because trust me, I would eat most of it. After losing 60 pounds almost ten years ago, I decided to bake all those cookies was not in my best interest. As for Christmas gifts, it is possible some of them might show up on Epiphany. That is when Jesus received some of his so it’s traditional. I love how we have been doing our decorating and all the rest of our preparations. It isn’t so hectic, and it gives me time to ponder. I have time to prepare my spirit for the coming of the Lord anew in me. What new thing is he trying to show to me? How is he trying to transform me? Maybe he is just enjoying me spending time with him. I’m enjoying it. It helps me stay in the moment. It helps me listen. And I do not miss all the craziness.
This year, as I do most of them, I start Advent by attending a Quiet Day at our Church. Fr. Jack told us the day was for us to be able to have a renewing encounter with God, and he gave us questions to ponder to help us. I plan to use them in my quiet time each day and by Christmas, I hope to have some of the answers. Perhaps I will share some with you.
So, if you haven’t finished all your preparations for Christmas, remember that Christmas doesn’t start until December 25. You still have time. Take some of that time for a renewing encounter with God. You can be refreshed rather than frazzled when you get to Christmas Day. And have a Merry and blessed Christmas.
Grace and Peace,