I love Advent and preparing for Christmas. I drove my roommate crazy as she wanted to decorate for Christmas and I wanted to decorate for Advent. She set up her (large) nativity in the dining room and I keep sneaking pieces away. The 3 Wise Men and their camel are now residing next to the rice and flour in the kitchen, and Mary and Joseph are hanging out in the center of the Advent Wreath on the coffee table in our living room, and little baby Jesus is hiding out by a statue of Mary in another location. By Christmas Mary and Joseph with make their way to the Dining Room where the shepherds and sheep are keeping watch, and the 3 Wise Men will probably make their way to the living room so they can arrive in “Bethlehem” for the Epiphany. I am really glad that my roommate decided to forgive my eccentricities and help me celebrate Advent as a season of preparation instead of celebrating a holiday that is still weeks away. I find when I skip Advent and head right into Christmas mode right after Thanksgiving that my head is not on straight (it usually isn’t!)
As a child I remember waiting until very close to Christmas to go shopping for a Christmas Tree and then decorating the tree as a family. As my siblings are now all grown and two are in college, we have to wait until their break, to go pick up a Christmas Tree if we are going to pick it out together. In fact the past several years we have waited so late that it has been hard to find a tree. One year we even saved a tree from being put into the wood chipper! I like that we saved that tree from becoming mulch, but it also saddens me that our traditions are so contrary to today that we may not be able to keep that tradition alive for much longer. There have been years when we have set up our tree early and then it wilts and dries up and needs to be taken down days after Christmas and does not last until the Epiphany (that some people refer to as “Little Christmas”).
As shopping seasons have started to overlap more and more the past couple of years I have become more adamant about keeping certain things in certain seasons. As a teacher I really dislike seeing school supplies in stores shortly after the 4th of July as my vacation has just begun! But when it comes to Christmas, stores are stocked before Halloween is over and by the time Christmas arrives most people I see are so stressed with preparing for parties and gifts that they are glad it is over, but in reality it has just begun and lasts until January 6th!
Advent is a season of preparation… not preparations of gift buying, and wrapping, and cookie making, and school pageants and plays…. but preparations of the heart. Am I celebrating Christmas to get presents and give presents in order to “earn” affection? Am I just looking forward to the parties and the people and the food? Or am I looking to the birth of a little baby? The baby who is God, who chose to come down to earth in the most humble manner… the God who created the universe, became a helpless little baby so that He could show us true humility, and then modeled the way to life in Him.
Mama Mary, this Advent season please help me to grow in humility so that I may respond to God’s call with a fervent “yes!” May I open my heart and my life to your Son and draw ever closer to him. Amen.