There will be more advertising campaigns wanting to convince you that spending money is an essential component of 'the holidays', that someone in your life absolutely needs this or that, that you can make it possible by 'buying now, paying later'.
Well I don't remember there being a debt counselor in the manger scene. The Magi didn't stop at
Canadian Tire (Canada's Christmas Store) to fill up on stocking stuffers on their way to Bethlehem. None of the liturgies through Advent will encourage us to buy the biggest tree we can find and entrench it in a mountain of penguin-stamped wrapping paper covered presents.
We're going to start to feel frazzled as our calendars fill up faster than we can write in all the events we're invited to. There will be work parties, family gatherings, neighbourhood events, shopping excursions, and all those side trips to drop off gifts to the growing list of random people that one is now expected to bestow tokens upon: the bus driver, the teacher, the librarian, the newspaper boy, the hairdresser, the secretary, the building super....
|Holy Mass at St. Peter's|
Alexandria. She is the patroness of my diocese so our bishop celebrated a solemn mass in her honour. And solemn it was; it was beautiful in the 'true, good, and beautiful' sense, everything a high mass should be, with gorgeous red vestments, a line of processing priests as long as the aisle, the bishop and his servers cloaked in great dignity and reverence, appropriate and sacred music... all the bells and smells that make being Catholic so awesome. Sitting in the pew, taking it all in and feeling overwhelmed by the utter glory of it all, I thought to myself: this is what I want to experience on Christmas. I want to weep for the beauty I see, to be unable to supress the desire to praise and glorify God in communion with my brothers and sisters in their pews around me.
But we can't get to that without preparing for it. We have to go through Advent first, that hushed, expectant period of watching and waiting for the birth of our Lord. The tone of our Christmas will be greatly influenced by the tone of our Advent. Focusing on the shopping and frolicking now will result in a Christmas morning straight out of a Canadian Tire commercial. It doesn't have to be that way. There is an alternative. Taking a moment now to reflect on what Christmas means to you, what you want to experience through the whole of the Christmas season (Christmas Eve to Epiphany) and laying the foundation for it now, will combat the pressures that come at you from outside.
Having given it some thought, I've decided I'm going to unplug as much as I can from the internet during Advent. No idling through YouTube videos, no Googling everytime I want to know something (I'm going old school and returning to the world of bookish references). I've dusted off my breviary to pray the hours each day. I'm going to 'keep holy the Sabbath day' and maintain longer periods of silence in my home.
These have been brought to me in prayer, and are possible for my life. Your Advent preparations will depend on your circumstances, your family and commitments, but I encourage you to reflect on the importance of this time of preparation - spiritual as well as material.
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,
shall come to thee o Israel!