Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Required Advent Post

Editor's note: This is another great contribution from the one and only Holly Vaughan. You can follow her on Twitter here!

This is truly one of my favorite times of the year.  However, this year (and probably most years to be honest) I find that the first Sunday of Advent has come and gone, and I’m already reflecting on how my best laid plans have not quite come to fruition - or maybe too many plans have actually come to fruition.  

I had (still have) all of the plans - how to make Advent extra fruitful for myself and for my family.  Things like adding in extra reading, the Jesse Tree, the Advent wreath, specific extra prayers each day, watching Best Advent Ever every single morning, and making sure that my kids didn’t miss a day in their (admittedly awesome) Advent journals.  All of these are great things.  Really great things.

But guys.  I catch myself making them one more item to check off on a list.  I catch myself rushing us through them on busy days just to mark them off the list.  That’s not the spirit of Advent.  We should be praying more, yes.  We should be spending more time with God’s word.  But Advent is where we slow down, cut the crazy down, and focus.  Advent, I feel, should have an air of reverent simplicity, along with the air of anticipation. That’s what I’m missing, already, just a few days in.  

Are you in the same boat? Or are you feeling like you aren’t doing enough? Let’s work on finding that balance shall we?  Balance, by the way, is a huge part of the Benedictine charism.  Saint Benedict was a big believer in moderation - don’t go without, but don’t overdo.  Look for the middle - where it’s just enough.  Virtue lies in the middle, as Thomas Aquinas teaches us.  

As for me and my house - here’s my (adjusted) plan.  We will keep doing the Advent wreath as usual- it’s a simple and lovely tradition that only requires a real effort once a week.  Other than that we just make sure the appropriate candles are lit each day to remind us of where our focus should be every time we pass by it.  Plus...I love it.  We made it ourselves the year we converted (we had no idea where to buy an Advent wreath), and the newest addition to it is the wooden slab under it, made by my husband.  It’s special to us, and it reminds me of the wonder and awe we felt when first discovering the faith.  

The Jesse Tree?  It’s actually our Christmas tree, but without lights or decorations.  We add a Jesse ornament each day, and on Christmas Eve we will add our actual Christmas decorations.  This is another core tradition in our house, so it will stay as well.  But if we miss a day, I’m determined not to let that stress me out, or rush through the reading just to get it done.  We will simply do it the next day.  Or even the next.  And it will be just as meaningful - far more so than if we had rushed through it.

The same with the rest.  If the kids miss a day in the Advent journal, the blank page will be there the next day.  If I watch Best Advent Ever in the evening instead of the morning, or even have to watch two or three in one day (or miss one completely!)- that’s really ok.  I will pray as much as I can and I will read as much as I can. And if that isn’t as much as I would like, I’ll offer that up to God and keep trying.  

I’m shifting my focus, and I encourage you to do the same.  Shift it to Adoration - go sit with Jesus whenever you can.  Don’t focus on how much you read, but instead maybe try Lectio Divina and focus on quality instead of quantity.  Maybe you don’t have time for a whole Rosary, but you can say a decade very slowly, reverently, and thoughtfully.  Do that instead of trying to rush in all the decades.  

Let’s focus on narrowing our focus this Advent.  Let’s put it where it belongs - not on a time schedule, but squarely on the Babe of Bethlehem, born of the Virgin, come to save us all.  

P.S. Theology Student Nerd Note- Did you know Bethlehem means House of Bread? The Word Made Flesh, who now comes to us under the species of bread and wine, was born in a town called “House of Bread.” That was one of my favorite quick facts that I learned in a class on the Eucharist.  God is awesome. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment