Advent with the Mother of God

shutterstock_21357640If you’re like me, you find yourself, so often, at the beginning of Advent with a glassy stare and a list that’s longer than Santa’s.  You’ll have shopping to do, baking to finish, wrapping and cleaning and a host of other things, all demanding your attention.  And I haven’t even taken into account the day-to-day items that don’t pause in the face of all the extras.

For a number of years, I felt like something was missing from my Advent. A few years ago, I started to realize what it was.

Though I refused to decorate before the week before Christmas, and though I paid great lip service to the loveliness of the Advent season, I wasn’t preparing myself to welcome my Savior on Christmas.

I didnt mean to turn to Mary.  She was just there, in the Nativity.  She looked so calm and serene.  She was as different from me as it was possible to be.

How do you think she spent her Advent that year, when Jesus was born? Jesus was the fulfillment of a time of waiting much longer than the four weeks we observe every year before Christmas.

Maybe my Advent expectations aren’t what they should be.  Maybe, instead of holding myself accountable for all the shopping, all the devotions, and all the possibilities for the season, I should pause for a moment.

Maybe, in whatever I choose to do this Advent, I should make sure my gaze remains heavenward, my heart waiting in joyful anticipation.

This year, Im doing less during Advent.  Through a series of planning strategies, I hope to have my Christmas shopping done before Advent begins.

I don’t like to shop.  I never have.  Though I’ll tag along with the women in my life who do love to shop, I’m there for the company, not the retail therapy they so enjoy.

So why do I let my tendency toward procrastination win over my abhorrence of shopping?  Why do I save a task that I hate for a season when I’m supposed to be gearing up for the Savior?

Realizing this little fact – that I shouldn’t save a hated task for Advent time – has been a breakthrough for me.  All of a sudden, I am freed, able to see Advent as something other than a time of dread.

Maybe you revel in the Christmas shopping.  My point is to encourage you to remember the reason for Advent.

It’s not Christmas.  Though we’re surrounded by plastic Santas and garland and all the trappings, we’re preparing for Jesus.

And He’s not here yet.

I find it hard to remember that Advent’s a time of penance and preparation in the noise of the world.  Though they may be hymns blaring over the grocery store’s speakers, I’m not finding any holiness in them.

A few years ago, I tried something a little extreme.  I put away my iPod.  It wasn’t easy, but something was calling me to silence, and in that step, I found the therapy of Advent.

As a season of penance, its a great time to adopt a practice that will challenge you a bit.  Maybe, instead of giving something up, you’ll want to try something a little extra.

Don’t think I don’t understand what I’m suggesting.  I don’t have an extra 20 minutes a day either…but I find that when I give God some of my extra time, He always gives me back more, in patience or the grace to deal with challenges.

The voice of God is often described as a breath, a soft wind, a whisper.  How do I expect to hear it if my eyes (and my mind) are filled with so much noise?

I have a confession.  I used to hate Christmas.  In fact, just the other day, “I hate Christmas” came out of my mouth unexpectedly.

But what I hated – what I still hate – isn’t Christmas. It’s the bustle and pressure and demand.  It’s the feeling that I can’t win or even come in second.  It’s the inhuman expectation that wells within me when I think of what needs done.

What Im forgetting is that none of this is about me.  Advent is a time of preparation, yes, but it’s not about how I do or what I get done.  It’s a spiritual journey, and as I reframe my understanding, there’s only one place to turn:  Mary.

She’s waiting for me, standing at the base of my mountain of worries and fears, pointing to another way, telling me that I don’t have to go near that mountain at all:  there’s a way to avoid it and still get to the other side.

The way?  Her Son.

image: Lobke Peers / Shutterstock.com

Sarah Reinhard

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When Sarah Reinhard set off in her life as a grown-up, she had no idea it would involve horses, writing, and sparkly dress shoes. In her work as a Catholic wife, mom, writer, parish employee, and catechist, she’s learned a lot of lessons and had a lot of laughs. She’s online at snoringscholar.com and is the author of a number of books.

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  • Sarah

    This is very similar to what’s been in my heart lately, as we approach the season of Advent. How I will “do” this, I’m not sure. But I always desire Advent to be different, and yet I end up getting caught up in the “hustle and bustle,” which I do not like.

    In light of last week’s gospel, our pastor suggested making 2 Advent resolutions this year: one focused on our daily life and one focused on our eternal life [or our prayer life or preparing for the birth (coming) of Jesus—whatever you want to call it]. I thought this was very practical … And it reminded me of Our Blessed Mother. Mary must have been attentive to her duties, and yet she did not let them take over her life! Her main focus was always Heaven-bound. Her tasks were done in the light of her yes to God and her praising Him in all things. Maybe that is a good way to approach Advent this year.

    Thanks for your words to get me thinking! God bless you, Sarah!

  • Laura Hanby Hudgens

    I just wrote a rather lengthy (and mouthy) post on the subject of Advent ( http://charmingfarming.com/2013/11/14/what-to-stop-the-war-on-christmas-observe-advent/) offering my readers numerous suggestions for observing the season. Why didn’t I think of Mary! I will definitely be taking your advice to heart. Thank you!

  • http://www.snoringscholar.com/ Sarah Reinhard

    Good one, Laura!

  • http://www.snoringscholar.com/ Sarah Reinhard

    Love that advice for Advent (and it applies for Lent too). I think I might try that too!

  • Angela Mose

    Thank you for putting into words all that has been in my heart as well. I have always loved this most beautiful season, but every year I feel that I “miss” it in spite of decorations and Advent devotions and all of the well intentioned but overwhelming efforts to please everyone. Christmas is Christ and His mother. Joseph as well, can show us how to do what needs doing, such as finding shelter for his Holy Family, but to do it without fuss or worry. Advent is such a lovely Word. Now, if I can only put into practice the intention to not do and to pray, then maybe there will be more room for the Savior in the *Inn* of my heart.

  • El_Tigre_Loco

    We have 22 persons in our immediate family. It became impossible to buy gifts for so many and get something nice. So everyone was getting junk and stressed out. Then we decided to pick names and now we only have to buy for one person. That makes the holiday ever so much simpler. Plus it is cheaper. 22 persons at even $10 is $220, and everyone gets a $10 gift. We set the limit at $50 and so everyone gets something nicer and saves money, too.

  • http://www.snoringscholar.com/ Sarah Reinhard

    My husband’s family started doing that too, El_Tigre. And it makes the gift-buying a lot more intentional, I’ve found.

  • Jeni

    This is exactly what I was thinking to myself earlier today!! Nicely said. Thank you for this–excellent.

  • Cheryl

    Your comments on Advent reflect similar feelings many of us have. I usually like getting all shopping done before Advent begins and decorating about a week before Christmas.
    Might I add an experience I had in the 1990s when at Mass Christmas Day? I was sitting up front near the Tabernacle that day. At the end of Mass people hurried out the door but some remained, laughing and talking for a few moments before they, too, hurried away. The priest quickly turned out all the lights and left, the door closing with a clunk behind him. Litter was strewn on the floor, hymnals and bulletins in disarray. What struck me most was the overwhelming silence in the now darkened church. Soon I, too, would be leaving Jesus on His Birthday. Only the flickering sanctuary lamp would be left to keep Him company. He would be forgotten in the merriment and togetherness at most people’s homes. How sad I felt to leave Jesus alone on a day so meant for Him.. I wanted to change that.
    For two years I had already been writing on a little piece of paper what I’d like to do for Jesus in the upcoming year. I’d then roll it up and wrap a narrow, baby blue ribbon around it, curl the ends, and place it beside Him in my own Creche. Now, however, I wanted to visit Jesus again at church on Christmas Day. Around 4:00 I would do just that. I had composed what I would do. It consisted of songs, scripture passages on the Nativity, passages from “Shepherd of My Soul” by Wilfred Le Sage SJ, and ending with the Divine Praises and Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. It lasted a little over an hour. The following year friends said they’d join me at church. When we finished everything, we left our “presents” for Jesus in a basket at the crèche. The priest had agreed beforehand to burn them in offering to Jesus the following day.
    These days church doors are understandably locked It would depend on the location of an Adoration Chapel and method of entry (keying in a code the best). One thing I know, it is a treasure being with the Lord for His Birthday.

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