Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent talk

Happy Advent!

I'm a little out of the habit of blogging, I find; I don't think I've taken this long of a break in a while. Then, too, the segue from Thanksgiving into Advent has caught me off guard as usual; I still have four pink votives in my not-quite-Advent wreath, but hope to find some purple ones sometime before Christmas.

CORRECTION: After I typed the above, I went to do an Advent reading with the girls, and discovered two square lavender candles on my mantle. One leftover plum-colored votive from last year, and we're in business, albeit a little oddly!

Because I'm blogging so late, and because the news articles I want to digest and discuss are probably going to take a little more than the cursory glance I can give them now, I'd like to open this post up for a little Advent talk. Specifically, I'd like to ask three questions:

1. What Advent devotional practice are you most looking forward to this year, and why?

2. What personal struggle/habit are you trying to work on this Advent?

3. How do you try to balance the prayerful preparation of Advent with the world's hectic Christmas demands--some of which take place long before Christmas has even arrived?

Feel free to post anonymously on this one if you'd like.

I'll answer my own questions:

1. We're trying several new things this year, but the one I'm presently enthusiastic about involves the Advent readings I mentioned above. After going back and forth about various readings/meditations/etc. for Advent, I remembered that I'd been given a lovely book by Fr. Benedict Groeschel as a gift; the book, titled Behold, He Comes: Meditations on the Incarnation contains a short reading and prayer for every day of Advent, for every day of the Christmas season as well, and some "extras" and hymns in the back of the book. We always found it difficult to do a lengthy Scripture reading in the evening when we light the Advent wreath's candles; yet adding some special devotion in at the end of the day has always been an important part of how we mark a liturgical season, especially since the evening hours are the only times when Thad can join us. These simple reflections are exactly what we needed this year, as the girls are more than ready to take a more serious approach to Advent.

2. As readers know, I'm an inveterate night owl. That much is okay; some people find it easiest to function at 5 a.m.; others at 8 a.m.; others at 8 p.m.; and others at or even after midnight. In fact, I thought jokingly after Mass yesterday that yesterday's readings were almost a vindication of us night owls, with the cry to stay awake and remain vigilant as we wait for the Lord.

However, take one night owl, add Christmas shopping, baking, preparations, and stresses, and you end up with a recipe for disaster--or at least for a mom who is staring in disbelief at a clock which reads "3 a.m." more often than she'd like to admit. Therefore, the Lenten discipline I most want to work on is getting to bed at what reasonable people would call a decent-ish hour, even if earlybirds who are sound asleep by 9:30 p.m. shudder at the notion that midnight or so is a decent hour at all.

3. This one is a puzzler, to be sure, and I can't claim to have it all worked out yet. I know, for instance, that Thad will have various company-related "Christmas" activities during Advent. There will be other things that crop up through the month of December which will tend to put the focus solely on Christmas, and on secular Christmas activities, at that. And some things have to be done before the 25th arrives, if they are to be done at all.

I'm tending to think that the key is simplicity: to do a few things simply, instead of trying to do many things lavishly; to focus on what ought to be done instead of what can theoretically be done. But that's only the beginnings of an answer, and not a concrete one at all--so I'll be interested to see how others have dealt with this issue.

Anyone up for a little Advent talk?


Anonymous said...

Uggh, with the early birds, already! I secretly admire them, but do they have to be so perky about it? My Grandmother, who got up at 4 am every day, said the only sleep that counts is the sleep you get before midnight. I guess that means I never sleep. Ever.

This Advent, for us, is about the Scriptural why's and wherefore's, instead of the decorations. Candles and wreath and prayers, yes, fluffy calendar w/candy, no.
Jesse tree and ornaments and corresponding Bible verses, yes, 52 kinds of cookies and 52 new pounds, no. Our kids are elementary aged, and the secular trappings appeal, but they've really grabbed onto a different spirit this year. I'm going to practice being more like them (except I'm not going to bed at 8:30!).

Lindsey said...

Great questions!

1. This year, I'm most anticipating the Advent wreath lighting, nightly, with my children. This is because they got so into it last year. We sang the same verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel every single night of Advent last year and none of them ever complained or boredom--and my 4, 6, and 9 year olds easily learned the words! This year (because I felt a little bored with it, shh, don't tell them) we are going to sing the second verse in week 2 of Advent, the third verse in week 3, etc. I will photocopy the words and have them ready to hand out by the table each night. I'll also try to read a little prayer or thought each night from my Magnificat Advent Companion or another book I have.

2. Facebook addiction. I disengaged, by removing my bookmark and signing off via my status message. It's not enriching my life, and I don't think I'm deepening relationships there...I just waste a ton of time, and I feel compelled to get caught up on EVERYONE'S life when I log on. I decided this Advent will be a time of tidying up my heart and home.

3. For the first time ever, I made a concerted effort to do all my Christmas shopping before the start of Advent. The money ran out before I could finish, so I waited until today and got more of it done. This is not about being a superwoman or having organizational bragging rights; I knew that I have never been able to really stop and be still and listen to God and prepare for Christ's coming because I've been so consumed with 1)being annoyed that everyone is already celebrating Christmas, and 2)trying to prepare for Christmas while wishing I didn't feel so rushed.

Right now, on 11-29, I'm about 90% done (not counting Christmas cards or baking) and I feel very content about that.

Oh, one more thing. Logistical reasons this year require us to put up our tree on Dec 5. I've had it up with no ornaments in the past, sometimes with a purple ribbon. I like this for Advent, and then we trim the tree as we get closer to Christmas. But last year, this stressed me out, because the ornament boxes (there are several) sat in my kitchen the whole of Advent, instead of going back up into the attic. This year, we will trim the tree right away, but the lights will stay dark, unplugged, until Dec. 24. I will wrap a gauzy purple ribbon around the tree, over or around the ornaments. This is my Advent/Christmas compromise this year, and I feel good about it.

A tiny one more: I'm going to burn some Advent songs onto a CD so we can listen to that when we get the itch to turn on the radio (Christian station is playing 24/7 Christmas music now, and will go back to normal on 12-26 :P).

God's peace!

Jennifer said...

Great questions!!
1. My favorite Advent devotional practice is a little book from our parish - they all revolve around a theme and the whole parish does the same one. I love that we are all on the same page during the liturgical seasons - feels very unifying.

2. Working on bring my children into our prayer life. They are small and wiggly so we sometimes don't include them beyond basic prayer. This Advent we are working on a nightly family Rosary.

3. Balance of it all - I only wish I had an answer for this.

freddy said...

1. We will light our Advent wreath this year and do the Jesse Tree with readings. My children have a complicated system to determine who gets to light the candle(s), blow them out, read the reading and place the symbol on the tree. I love that it's become a tradition they'd miss if we didn't do it.

2. MYOB -- you did say it's personal, no? :)

3. I remember that Mary and Joseph, awaiting the birth of the Saviour of the world, would most likely have loved to present Him in the midst of loving family and friends. Instead, they had to join throngs of travelers, report to authorities, find a place to stay in their time of need, and obey the Jewish rituals surrounding childbirth and the birth of a firstborn son. When things get stressed and hectic, I remember that I'm in very good company!

God bless and happy Advent!

Anonymous said...

We don't light an advent wreath or do a Jesse tree. I'm not sure why, other than I don't remember doing one as a child. I try to go to Mass more frequently during Advent, and I take the children to penance before Christmas.

I guess I should think more about why I don't do Advent wreaths/or Jesse trees in my home. I'm not much of an arts & crafts person and I really don't get much joy out of decorating for the holidays. It all kind of depresses me. The other day I was in HomeGoods and I looked at all the knick knacks and I thought "it's just junk and I don't want any more of it in my house".

I don't shop until the last minute. I decided that I'm not going to bother with Christmas cards this year. Now with Facebook, everyone can see what my children look like for free.

Erin Manning said...

Great comments, all!

Freddy--I did say you could post anonymously. ;)

Lindsey--I so, so want to do that (shop early, that is). Trouble is, I always want to do my shopping in August. The same month the credit card cracks under the weight of the next year's school books.

Maybe some day... :)

Unknown said...

Luckily I pasted by Charlotte's blog to see your link. I'm glad I did as I have been thinking, hard, about one of your questions.

1. We have an abundance of traditions here. Though I was brought up Catholic our family, newly immagrated from Mexico never had a Jesse Tree or Advent wreath...or anything like those. So having a Jesse Tree, an Advent calendar, and an Advent wreath have become an important visual for this season.

2. This question has me up at nights. My struggle is working through "laziness". I think most of my friends may think I've lost my mind by even stating that. But, they don't see how I struggle with getting up BEFORE the kids, preparing their school week, staying on top of things, getting to at least one daily Mass...just staying organized.

3. I don't Christmas shop, at least not in the same way as some. I learned a long time ago that the mall wasn't my friend. Nor do I want to be in one during Advent or Christmas. It's crazy in there...LOL.

So for presents we bake things, sew things, and yes we do purchase items. But, those items are often found early throughout the year.

Company parties are attended, some dinner parties are planned, relatives visit and with it all we "try" to maintain a balance. Not do too much that we are crazed and grumpy.
This time of year is busy