Even though it is almost halfway over...
Surprise, surprise! Advent is almost halfway over, and Christmas is fast approaching. Are you happy with your Advent striving so far? If you’re like the rest of us, Advent has been slipping past you and all of your terrific plans for the holiest Advent ever have slipped past, too. Or, if you’re like others of us, you started out Advent with great zeal and success, but now things are getting more hectic and it’s harder to keep up with your ambitions. Maybe, like some, you’re still deciding what you should do for Advent.
Regardless, it’s not too late – even if you haven’t even started your Christmas shopping – to pause, reconnoiter, regroup, and get a fresh (or first) start on making Advent holy and preparing your heart for the birth of the Christ Child.
The bonus is that it’s not as hard as you think it will be. Here are five quick and easy ways to make the most of Advent in the time that’s left. Do all of them, some of them, or even just one of them daily from now until Christmas, and you’ll feel the change in your heart. What’s more, the other people in your life will feel the change, too.
1. Turn off the Christmas Carols, even if it’s just for a day (or an hour). If your workplace plays them, you don’t have much choice during work hours. The same applies if you’re out shopping. I don’t think the management will be inclined to turn them off for you. But, you can turn them off yourself during non-work hours or once you get outside of the mall —on the car radio, or by deciding not to play them yourself on CDs or your MP3 player. If you can’t stand the “silence,” play classical music or find a music collection that’s geared for Advent. There are many good choices on iTunes and Amazon, for example. My personal favorite is Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.
2. Out on the road? Take a detour and make a mini-pilgrimage to a Marian shrine or Catholic Church. Spend five minutes chatting with the Holy Family. Ask them to increase your Advent longing and help you prepare well for Christmas. If the doors are locked, pray from your car or the bench on the street corner. Jesus still is inside – right in the tabernacle – in his Real Presence.
3. Be the Light of Christ when you’re running errands. Granted, we should be Christ-like to family and friends. But, what about the waitress at the restaurant? The salesperson at the department store? The bank teller? Talk to any folks in the service industry, and they’ll tell you that people are at their worst rather than their best at this time of year. “For supposedly being a ‘merry’ time of year, people sure are grumpy,” a cashier once told me while I was Christmas shopping. Well, she used a different adjective, but I think you get my point.
Instead of being grumpy like everyone else, try being cheerful. Better yet, make it a point to say something pleasant to the folks around you and compliment the service you’re receiving. You’ll be amazed at how something that simple can completely brighten someone’s day, including your own.
4. Offer it up. No, seriously. Look, it’s the Christmas shopping season, and so expect that there will be crowds, long lines, delays, and snarly individuals. Get over it. Put a smile on your face, offer up the inconvenience up for folks who no longer (or never did) believe in Christ, and relax. If you can’t handle Christmas shopping crowds, then give your loved ones an I.O.U. and do your shopping after Christmas. Everything will be on clearance anyway.
5. Delve into Scripture. Even if you already read Scripture and/or attend Mass daily, take a few minutes to slowly and purposefully read the Daily Readings. The Church has a prescribed set of readings that are the same every Advent. Why? Because they’re so vital to our faith! They are beautiful and will speak to your heart – if you let them. If you have a minute or two more to spare, ask our Lord to reveal the message the reading has for you in particular, especially in terms of helping you to prepare for Christmas. Finding the readings is a cinch. The USCCB has them