In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we have lists and lists of lists... we bake, we shop, we wrap, we decorate, we do for others, we do for ourselves (hopefully), we volunteer, we donate... we are exhausted. These things aren't BAD. However.... we have to ask ourselves what are we really focused on? Or in our case WHO are we focused on? Are we behaving like the rest of the world OR are we exuding Christ's love?
LOVE is the key to Christianity. John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Advent, to me, is about preparing our hearts to love as God loved us, as Jesus and Mary taught us to love, and in the spirit of all the Saints before us. We must prepare our hearts to love as they all did.
I have to be honest, as a homeschooling mom, who's husband is often out of town, I can't promise that I focus or am even loving at all times. But this time of year, it's a great reorganization of typical priorities. I think the best way to keep the focus on the birth of Christ and all that has meant to us -- as the body of Christ, as a family, and as individual Catholics -- at the forefront is to start in Advent.
This year, because of the death of my father, it's been hard to concentrate, in general. We have scaled back quite a bit in terms of Advent Activities.... and to be honest, it's so much better. A few weeks ago, I posted Keep Calm...Advent is Coming and I have to say, that with the exception of weekly Adoration and Confession, we have been sticking to it. I know I know - we need to be better at that. I'm just keeping it honest.
There are so many prayers and things we Catholics do daily, that I really feel we have Christ at the forefront, so for my post, the point I would love to make, especially to young mamas and busy women (you know, all of us) is you do not have to do it all. When I first was converting, I was so confused because there were so many things to choose from, it was like the "squirrel" scene in UP, where the dog couldn't concentrate. It was miserable to try to keep up or change my plans every time I read something new. It may just be my personality... I just want you to know that whatever you do, however elaborate or simple - Advent Season reinvigorates our purpose to rejoice in the birth of Christ. We must walk the Advent path in a humble and purposeful way so that our hearts are in the right place to receive HIM! Advent is a time of preparation. And if you, sweet mamas can only do ONE or two things to prepare yourselves for Advent - then do not feel bad about that! It's counter productive. Just choose what you can do wisely, God knows your hearts.
That being said, my suggestions are simple. Small daily reminders of preparing my heart and mind, and that of my family:
Daily Readings. (I use my Magnificat and the Magificat Advent Companion). This is my "me" time. My centering and peace for the day. I can't think of a better way to stay near Christ, than in the Advent Readings. It's the story of His coming. There is also a Daybreaks Book that we read in the evening before supper... this I
Jesse Tree & O' Antiphon Readings. Thank you Jesse Tree Treasures for creating the best ornaments. We have had ours for five Christmases now (I think).
Advent Wreath. Sunday evenings, we read the readings and light our candles. We sit down for supper and discuss what we read. We actually have a pre-made wreath this year. It was in our boxes and is perfect.
Daily Books about the Spirit of Advent/Christmas. There are so many out there and reading with family lends to great conversations. I love this.
Gather Food for Food bank - we have a pile in our pantry. We simply pick one or two items daily and add to the pile. We will take to the food bank or family in need before Christmas. We normally do an Advent Calendar loaded with tasks of kindness, but we simply aren't this year. We are purposing to be kind while keeping our Advent simple.
Keeping Your Tree & Decor Christmas Centered. Consider decorating your tree later, maybe Gaudette Sunday weekend, and keeping it up at least through the Feast of the Epiphany. AND when you do decorate, make sure you have Angels, Nativities, and ornaments that represent your faith (we have Jesse Tree ornaments from a swap we did years ago and our Parish sells ornaments each year). We are not decorating our tree till Marque comes home, so it's going to be next weekend before we get it all done.
However, check out this scene I made for our living room table. Christ is represented through the Church.
Notice that the Baby Jesus is still inside Mary (until Christmas day) in our nesting doll Nativities. This is to signify WAITING on Jesus. I explain that to my child yearly when he asks WHY!
Advent/Christmas/December Feast Day Crafts. My son has largely outgrown wanting to craft. But he will help cook or decorate cookies. So I try to do what I can. But for those of you with littles, I would not try to do EVERY feast day or every craft. But pick a few, one/week or something that fits into your schedule. Tracy @Slice of Smith Life, Angie @Real Life at Home, Lacy @Catholic Icing, and Monika +Monica McConkey Equipping Catholic Families are my go-to bloggers for fun Catholic things to do at a moment's notice. There are tons more, but these are my top four.
Birthday Cake for Jesus. About the time Christopher was three, he asked why we did not have a birthday cake if it was Jesus' birthday. And so, we made one. Now, we make it on Christmas Eve. This year it will be a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. It changes every year. But it's a fun Christmas Eve tradition. This year I am directing the Live Children's Nativity at St. Patrick for the 5pm Mass. So the cake will be made before and iced after. But it will be done!
Two last things, and the things that I am most guilty of NOT doing often enough...
- Reconciliation/Confession. What better way to prepare our hearts and minds for Jesus' coming than to confess our sins as often as possible.
- Adoration. Sigh. I have NEVER been. I know. There really is no excuse. As a convert, I find it so intimidating. But it's my goal to go this Advent, and pour my heart out to the Lord. Pray for me!
I hope in a small way that my post has been helpful to you. If you can't do it all, sisters, make what you can do COUNT!
I am joining up with Allison Gingras and crew for the CWBN Blog Hop: Making Him Room, Putting Christ in Christmas. It's a monthly, blog post geared toward a pointed topic. And it's awesome.
This month's topic... Putting Christ in Christmas. Please go to Allison's blog and check out all of the other bloggers. There is so much talent!
This is my first Christmas with no parents. Sigh. I know there are others who struggle with loss this time of year. Please know you are in my prayers. <3
Love, hugs & many blessings,