An Intentional Advent - And You're Invited!

Every year it seems to increase, that rush to celebrate Christmas and the inadvertent loss of the richness and meaning of the celebration itself.  Thanksgiving becomes merely a "gateway holiday" and carols are being blasted before Advent has even begun.  I know most people don't get it and simply just want a good time.  I get that.  So I will try not to rant but perhaps you would you allow me just a few thoughts?

We live in a culture where we want the fun now.   We want to imbibe now.   We want to celebrate now.  We want to harness all the delight and joy of Christmases past and recollect and relive them now.  It's a cultural problem, really.  From simple things like saying no to that extra treat to waiting patiently for the light to turn green to much bigger things like waiting until Marriage to partake in the act of making love, the world says "why wait?  Do it NOW" and we nod in agreement.  And with the help of modern psychology we delude ourselves into thinking that it's the denying ourselves and waiting that is harmful.  Because, of course, we will just explode if we don't give in to our healthy appetites.  And we're talking about Christmas, for crying out loud!  Of course it would only be a good thing to just want to celebrate it more.  Right?

But in steps the Church.  That mean old grumpy Church.  When all the world is screaming do it NOW, the Church whispers wait.  When the world declares more is better, the Church says the right time is better.  When the world sings that the season is here, the Church says no, it is yet to come.  And she is right.  After all, she was the one who set it all up in the first place.  I've found more and more each year that the more we wait in joyful expectant hope during the season of Advent, the fuller and richer and more fruitful our celebration of Christmas.  The more we humble ourselves before the wisdom of two thousand years of Tradition and teaching (even if we don't always get it), the more we DO end up understanding deep within our hearts the mystery and depth that is the Christian life.

There is nothing like those last few weeks of pregnancy.   I think back to those weeks before my first was born and I want to shake that young inexperienced little girl and tell her, "Get READY.  Your life is going to be completely changed and your world rocked.  This baby thing is the realest, hardest, craziest thing you will ever do.  And it will be worth it.  So very very worth it.  But be prepared."  And I wish I would have.  I would have prayed more, sat more, read more, written more, and most definitely slept more.  I would have learned more from parents I admired and frozen more meals.  I did a whole lot of celebrating and was incredibly grateful for the gift of this new little child but I did very little preparing of my own heart for the demands of motherhood.  Those last few weeks are a gift but often we see them only as a burden, yearning for that baby to be out before he or she is ready.  And we know that some of the most important, life-giving developments happen in those last few weeks and days.  A child born before they are ready has obstacles to overcome and sometimes the effects of emerging too early are lifelong.  It really shouldn't surprise us that the same culture that continues to rush the celebration of Christmas also has an epidemic of unnecessarily induced births and some of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized world.  We just. can't. wait.

But maybe it's time.  Maybe it's time to challenge ourselves to wait.  Even when it's hard and it hurts.  To force ourselves to wait and pray, prepare and hope.  When everything around us and in us wants it now, to maybe deny ourselves and our own false wisdom and yield to the wisdom of tradition.  And of course, we do this without sour-faces and miserable sighs.  We wait in JOYFUL hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But we still wait.

So I try not to rant.  I do my best to prepare and wait within my own little domestic church, and observe the seasons the way the Church in her vast wisdom has organized for centuries.  If the Church isn't singing Christmas carols, then our little church doesn't either.  If the Church curtails the decorations, then so does ours.  And if the Church celebrates Christmas beginning at sundown on December 24th, then that's when we will begin to celebrate it, too.  The Church has given us Advent and rather than just be a time of sitting on our hands until the real fun begins, it is a gift in itself.  It is a time for penance, reflection, almsgiving, prayer.  A time to truly prepare our hearts for HIM.  Advent gets us ready for the One who wants to renew, restore, and transform our lives yet again and that takes time and patience and the hard job of waiting.

Will you wait with me?

I'm challenging myself and our family to live the most intentional Advent yet.  And I think I want to challenge you, too.  We have a full week until it begins.  What will you do to observe Advent more this year?  How will you more fully live the life of the Church within your family?  What will that mean for you?  Even if it's one small thing...can you do it as a gift for Him?

Some ideas:
No treats and a simple menu until Christmas
Turning off the t.v. and Christmas carols during Advent
Holding off on the decorating a few weeks
Extra acts of charity and service as a family
Special devotions prayed individually and as a family
Beginning the tradition of the Jesse Tree.
Increasing your financial giving to your church and the poor.

I'll be posting about some of our family's plans this Advent but I'm going to wait on that for a bit.  (You can read about some of our little traditions here, if you'd like.)  I don't want anyone thinking this is what I think they should do.  Pray about it and reflect on how your unique family can observe Advent more fully.

And then?

Then come back and share with us how you and your family will be deepening your Advent this year.  If you have a blog, post about your family's plans (and feel free to grab the image below, link back here, and add your link below so we can see your post!).

Wait with us.  I'm inviting you.  HE'S inviting you.
I can promise you this: 
He will be worth it.

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  1. Beautiful post Mary! Thank you for the gentle, important reminders!

  2. Our family enjoys the time of Advent. We don't set up our tree until a few days before Christmas and we attend very few pre-Christmas Christmas activities. It makes Christmas all the more special... and we celebrate it for twelve days :)

    1. Oh, the twelve days!! Yes! It's so wonderful to celebrate all 12 days. It's such a bummer when all the radio stations turn off the Christmas music just when Christmas is really beginning! We've had to build up our own collection to combat that and we love celebrating the full season, too :)

  3. This is such a lovely post! I was the same way when I was pregnant with my son. I was so busy celebrating and doing what I thought was "preparing" (reading book after book, buying all the 'must-haves', etc.) that I never took a minute to simply sit still and wait! I absolutely agree, I think this is something we really need to fight as a society, because this culture of instant gratification seems to be getting worse every year. Our family has never celebrated Advent like this before, but I think it's the perfect way to start :) Thanks for linking up with Little HolyDays!


    1. Thank you so much, Hannah! Hope you have a wonderful Advent!

  4. Sounds like you and I are trying to bring the same things to our advent "celebration" - it's good to know others are trying to slow things down.

  5. Mary, I have a question. ... what songs do you recommend for Advent? O Come O Come Emmanuel is the only one I can think of. I hold off on carols til Christmas too but I want *some* kind of music...

    1. Hi Tamara! This is hard. There is one CD I bought last year called "Advent in Ephesus" by the Benedictine nuns that is beautiful. Marian Grace also just released a CD THIS week called On a Bleak Midwinter Morning and the first four songs are Advent songs. I was hoping that the whole CD would be but maybe that's not as marketable? One of my favorites is also Amy Grant's song Breath of Heaven from her first Christmas album. It is beautiful and was the song I listened to all through my youngest's birth. Other than that, I haven't found a whole lot, unfortunately. I would love to find more! Two radio stations have already started their 24/7 Christmas music here the day after Halloween and last year they literally STOPPED halfway through Christmas day! Sigh.
      Here's the link for the Advent at Ephesus CD: Advent in Ephesus


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