Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What Happened to Advent?

Where I live in the United States, Christmas starts way before Thanksgiving. Even before Halloween is over, the Christmas candy and merchandise are on the shelves. It's like Thanksgiving is just a blip in the rush to get ready for Christmas. And then of course there's Black Friday--the day to get bargains on gifts for Christmas. Some stores are even open on Thanksgiving! (By the way, I never shop on Black Friday.)  Whatever happened to Advent?
  This was not the case when I was growing up. No one I knew ever started Christmas preparations before Thanksgiving. In some families (not mine) they even kept the custom of "Santa" decorating the tree on Christmas Eve. Of course, at that time the majority of women did not work outside the home. I think that's one reason for the rush to prepare for Christmas. Women who work outside the home don't have the time to prepare for Christmas.
  Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and minds for celebrating again the coming of the Savior among us. It's supposed to be a time of waiting, a time of peace; a time to grow in holiness. It's similar to being pregnant and waiting for the child within to grow and develop. As the expected birth gets closer, the parents start preparing the nursery. They buy clothes and all the little things they will need to welcome the new little one. It's not a hectic time, because you can't rush pregnancy. It takes time.
  So Advent should be like that for us. When the merchandisers put out the Christmas ware, don't buy any of it until after Thanksgiving. Don't rush to put the tree up. If you want to put the lights on the house do so; but don't turn them on until Christmas gets closer (saves electricity too!). Put up decorations slowly, a little at a time. Don't play Christmas music until it gets close to Christmas. Don't focus on all that you think has to get done. Focus on what really has to get done; then do the rest if there's time.
  Most of all, take time each day to pray, to think about the gift of the Christ Child; about Mary and Joseph and their difficult journey. There's never enough time to pray; you have to make it a priority. Buy and follow an Advent devotional. Use an Advent wreath with the four candles to mark the weeks of waiting and preparation. Take time to read and savor the Christmas cards that come in a little at a time.
  And when Christmas finally arrives, don't rush to put everything away by New Years Day. The Christmas Season is actually at least until the feast of the Epiphany, January 6. It all gets put away eventually.
  May you have a holy and peaceful Advent.

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