Today at lunch my co-workers were beginning to complain about the stresses and hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The conversation specifically was about putting up Christmas trees and how much of a hassle it is to get the tree up right after Thanksgiving only to take it down less than a month later. Meanwhile, the lunchroom "holiday tree" sparkled behind us, having appeared mysteriously about a week ago. The word Christmas is apparently not inclusive enough and potentially offensive, so in the corporate world we have a "Holiday" Party instead of a Christmas party and "Holiday" trees and decorations. I think they missed the memo that the word holiday comes from holy day. Even more ironically, we have a giving tree in the lobby of my office and it is actually referred to as the Jesse tree. I guess HR also missed the memo on where the Jesse tree originated from.
Here's a hint: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots: and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1-2. BAM.
I'd like to propose an idea that's quite countercultural: celebrate Advent and wait in joyful anticipation for Christmas. If you're sick of Christmas before December 25, you're doing it wrong and missing out on a host of graces the Church offers to us by giving us the four-week season of Advent! During Advent we relive and imitate the weeks before Mary gave birth to Jesus by waiting and preparing our hearts as Mary (and any mother would!) waited and prepared for the birth of her son. While the world around us is speeding up and rushing to December 25, we as Christians should be intentionally slowing down in order to quiet our hearts so we can enter into a period of prayerful preparation for the birth of Christ and truly appreciate the beauty of the liturgical season of Advent.
Here are 8 practical ways to celebrate Advent!
- Listen to Advent chants/hymns instead of Christmas music. And no, the song "Mary Did You Know" does not count because yes, Mary did know. My favorite Advent albums are Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictine Sisters of Mary and Gregorian Chant for Advent by the Benedictine Monks at St. Meinrad in Indiana (shoutout to my home state, the best state!).
- Set aside time for silence and prayer. I recommend these simple daily meditations from my home parish. You can download/view them in a PDF here. Here's the first meditation: Dec. 1 ~ THE STABLE. Frequently during the day offer your heart to the little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home. Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and pure.
- Wait to put your Christmas tree up, perhaps on Dec. 17 when the O Antiphons begin, or be really hardcore and wait til Christmas Eve. Then leave your tree up through the entire Christmas season (pick your end date - the feast of the Epiphany on Jan 6, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, or be
lazyhardcore like me and leave it up for 40 days until the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2)
- Don't put baby Jesus in your nativity scene yet! Wait until Christmas. As Christmas nears move the figures of your nativity closer to the manger as they journey to Bethlehem.
|Advent - Doing it right|
- Celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6 and know about the real St. Nick/Santa
- It's a bit late for this now, but do the majority of your Christmas shopping before Advent begins
- Go to confession - create a spiritual creche in your heart and you want it nice and tidy for Jesus
- Be awesome like my best friend Alicia and paint your nails like an Advent wreath :)
|Disclaimer: this is not actually Alicia's hand.|
And for the love of all things holy. Please do not buy any ornaments of Santa on bended knee adoring baby Jesus. Unless you are buying them to give to my friend Fr. JB. Then I will allow it.
Be good, be holy, love the Lord!
Be good, be holy, love the Lord!