The most beautiful time of the year.
And also, for me, the most stressful.
Where Lent is a paring down, stripping away the extraneous and taking a hard look at being a better disciple of Christ, the secular celebration of Advent is about busyness and consumerism and gluttony.
The spiritual Kathryn knows the beauty of this season. I know the richness of sharing the birth of Jesus with my children. I understand that it isn’t about the gifts or the stuff, but what’s born in our hearts.
But, man, it is so hard to see past the catalogs, the coupons, the flash sales, the twinkling lights, the baked goods and the loudness of the season to see that one, bright-shining star leading us to Christ.
I often wonder if the Wise Men, on the journey, were pulled from their mission to bring gifts to the King. Were they, perhaps, lured into Costco for “one quick trip” or to stop and see friends enjoying merriment and food? Did they linger, or did they ride straight to that stable?
I’m pretty sure they did as they were told, but I have to wonder if I would’ve done the same. If I *am* doing the same this Advent. Am I taking the detours these next four Sundays of Advent, getting caught up in the doing—the baking, the Christmas light looking, the feasting, the endless school programming—or am I doing it all with purpose? With intention?
Am I being faithfully present to Jesus and soaking in His deep and abiding love for me?
As I pull out my December calendar, already marked with multiple events and parties—all promised to be full of joy and reverie—there’s a part of me that cringes. I can see the potential to get lost along the way to Christmas Eve and Epiphany.
This year, I’m taking Advent back and I hope you will, too.
- Consider logging off social media 1-2 days a week. For me, my most active time on social media is over the weekends. During Advent, I’ll likely log off on Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps we’ll make homemade hot chocolate or watch It’s a Wonderful Life! Maybe I’ll turn on the fire (hey, a Texas girl can hope) and play a board game with the kids. And I’ll do it all without Instagram.
- Go through your email inbox and unsubscribe from company emails, return that junk mail to sender, remove your name from the catalog lists and watch less television. You can’t buy and feast on what you don’t see. Absence may just make my heart grow fonder for Jesus.
- Serve someone in need. Maybe your child chooses an angel from the parish angel tree, you wrap gifts for Brown Santa, you make meals for Mobile Loaves & Fishes or you simply serve your own neighbors and family. In our family we often say that a grateful heart silences a complaining voice. Perhaps by serving, our family will continue to foster that grateful heart.
- Set gift limits and have a loving conversation with family. For many, love is tied up in gift giving. This one has to be done with love and prudence, grace and kindness. Perhaps you give a gift of your time or an experience rather than a tangible gift.
- Hold on to those Christmas cards you receive in the mail for the next year. And, as you gather at your family dinner table in 2018, pull one or two from the stack each evening, re-read it and pray for that family. It has transformed our dinner table.
However you journey to the Son this Advent, do it with love and intention. You may just find yourself sitting in the pew this Christmas with a peace-filled heart, overflowing with gratitude.