Happy and Blessed First Week of Advent to everyone! I love this time of year. I love lighting the candles on my Advent wreath and decorating the house, baking cookies (and eating them), singing Christmas carols, finding gifts for friends and family and the general smells, sights, sounds and sensations of the season.
We try to be as Catholic as we can during the season. We don't put up the tree till Gaudette Sunday, and we refrain from Christmas carols till Christmas itself (though I make an exception for the kids: we sing one Christmas song every night as part of our nighttime routine.) St. Nicholas comes with a small present for the kids on December 6th, and Christmas itself is dedicated to Christ and family. I'm pondering ways to truly embrace the spirit of the season, though. I want to prepare for Christmas with sacrifice and prayer much like Lent prepares us for Easter.
I've contemplated a Buy Nothing Christmas, but I'm not sold on the idea for a couple reasons. First of all, I think the urge to celebrate by giving gifts is a nice idea. If it's being taken to extremes by marketing agencies and shopping malls, well, they're free to try and convince me to buy more if they want to. It doesn't mean I have to buy nothing in response. The main problem, though, is that it requires EVERYONE you know to buy into it. Otherwise, you receive an abundance of love but don't communicate your goodwill in a language your friends and family understand.
I do, however, like the idea of homemade gifts, simplifying the holiday, and cutting through the propaganda to unearth the true spirit of the season: Christ's love.
So I've made a pledge: I will not buy a single Christmas decoration this year. I've already stopped buying Christmas lights, though I did pick up some used coils at a garage sale last June. I'm also going to try and say a prayer for the persecuted Christians in China whenever we pass any decorated trees/homes/lightpoles/signs, etc. Lights are everywhere, so the prayer has to be short! "Lord, please strengthen and bless those who suffer for You." We have four whole boxes of decorations in the storeroom already, so I really shouldn't need any more this year. I know I'll want some, though. We've moved to a new house and I'm already at a loss for what to put on my front doors, since we now own two instead of one. Still, I'm going to try and resist. Even if I find things on sale! This includes fresh evergreen wreaths, of which I'm particularly fond. Maybe I'll hunt through my decor and see if I can find a pine scented candle tucked away somewhere, or maybe I'll see what I can cobble together from the overgrown juniper bushes in the backyard.
I've been lax lately about my prayer life. I need to return to saying the Rosary every day, to start. I've also found this wonderful site with a guide to Advent prayers for each day of the season, something which I hope can help me focus my thoughts and energies on the magnificent gift God sent us in His son.
As always, though, I'm seeking ways to remember the poor in my every day life. This season, I'm particularly conscious of those who don't know our Lord loves them, or who reject him for whatever reason. I'm mindful, too, of those who live under the oppression of a hostile government and aren't free to share their wonder and joy at Jesus' birth. And I think of those unfortunate families who are so caught up in the stress and materialism of the season that they mostly just feel pressure to keep up with the Joneses. For all these, and for the poor souls in Purgatory who are waiting to be reunited with Christ, I will dedicate my daily Rosary.
Best wishes to everyone at the start of this marvelous season! How blessed we are to have this opportunity for reflection and anticipation!
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a wonder at the wisdom and power of Your Father and ours. Receive my prayer as part of my service of the Lord who enlists me in God's own work for justice.
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a hunger for peace: peace in the world, peace in my home, peace in myself.
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me a joy responsive to the Father's joy. I seek His will so I can serve with gladness, singing and love.
Come, long-expected Jesus. Excite in me the joy and love and peace it is right to bring to the manger of my Lord. Raise in me, too, sober reverence for the God who acted there, hearty gratitude for the life begun there, and spirited resolution to serve the Father and Son.
I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, whose advent I hail. Amen.