This past February, my son, Alex, made a grand appearance
three weeks before his scheduled due date. Needless to say,
the whole thing threw me for a loop. I hadn’t washed the sheets
for the crib, and the baby clothes were still in storage.
I hadn’t even bought diapers yet.
In the grand scheme of things, though, none of that mattered.
All that mattered was that Alex was here and healthy.
For me, Advent is kind of like that. I worry about all the
things I have to do, but in the end, whether or not I have
all the cards sent, cookies baked or presents bought, Christmas
will still arrive and I will still be blessed by Christ’s
Having said that, I must confess that I struggle to practice
what I have just preached. In fact, my toddler daughter, Madison,
recently chided me for my impatience, reminding me, “Patience
is a virtue, Mom.” To which I replied, “Yes, one which your
mother was not blessed with.” (I found the comment amusing
coming from someone who opened all 25 days of the Advent calendar
on December 1 last year.)
Advent's All About
Advent begins December 1 this year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Advent means “the coming.” It is the beginning of the Church’s
liturgical year. During this time we are called to reflect
on the upcoming birth of Jesus. The way we do this is by slowing
down, taking a sort of “time out” from our busy and hectic
But let’s face it: In our society, that’s not the easiest
thing to do. So it’s no surprise that we struggle with things
that call for us to slow down, be patient, take it easy.
In Advent, the Church provides us with a ready-made opportunity
to stop, regroup and refocus on the meaning of the season.
The question each year, however, is will we take advantage
of that opportunity? Below are some suggestions to help reduce
stress in preparing for Christmas:
Before you do anything, ask yourself why you’re doing
it. For many people most of Advent is spent rushing to get
Christmas shopping done, cards sent, cookies baked, etc. Those
activities in themselves can be wonderful experiences as long
as they’re done in joyful anticipation of Christ’s birth.
For instance, a friend of mine told me last year that she
was not sending Christmas cards or doing any baking because
it was too stressful and took too much time. I asked her if
she enjoyed doing those things and she said yes, but there
just wasn’t enough time between work, parties, shopping and
the kids’ school events. As a working mom of two children
myself, I could appreciate what she was saying.
But I also knew that some of my most precious moments of
this season are when my husband, Mark, and I slow down and
spend time doing things with our children. Sure, we still
do Christmas shopping, decorate the house and attend other
holiday events, but we make sure we’re doing those things
for good reasons rather than out of mere obligation.
One of my favorite Christmas shows is A Charlie
Brown Christmas. I especially love the part where Linus
recites the story of Jesus’ birth. Watch the video as a family
and then read the Infancy Narrative (1:5—2:52) from Luke’s
Advent is rich with traditions, such as the Advent
wreath, the Jesse tree, the Advent calendar and many others.
Select at least one of these traditions to celebrate in your
home. Some good resources for these customs are Holy Bells
and Wonderful Smells: Year-round Activities for Classrooms
and Families, by Jeanne Hunt, or The Best of Holy Days
and Holidays: Prayer Celebrations With Children, by Gaynell
Bordes Cronin. (Both are available from St. Anthony Messenger
It’s awfully easy to get caught up in the hustle and
bustle of the season. Take some time each day—by yourself
and also with your family—to remember the purpose of the Advent
and Christmas season through prayer and actions.
They say that good things come to those who wait. I think
that’s true. I know my family and I will be in good company
as we practice patience and waiting during this joyous season
Next Month: Does Anyone Write Letters Anymore?