Another AlwaysAdvent guest post by my dear friend Stephanie Baker. Enjoy!
I have to admit that the thought of Christmas mostly fills me with dread. This year Thanksgiving almost did me in. My husband remarked that I always over do it and then get sick. Yes, he is correct – I spent most of the last 3 days trying to nurse a headache, stomach virus and a cold! Why, God?
When I was “preaching” to our Whole Community group on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I told them that they needed to slow down during Advent and make room for the birth of God’s son in their hearts. That’s no small feat. I think many people (mostly mothers, I’m guessing) busy themselves during the holidays trying to make the perfect Christmas dream come true for their families. That translates into baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, entertaining, etc, etc, etc! We try to please everyone and end up where? I usually end up sick in bed. It is very hard for me to let things go but I have done it before. When I realized I was the only one eating the cut-out Christmas cookies, I stopped making them. No one missed those cookies. Not having them did not ruin Christmas. I imagine that principle holds true for many other “holiday traditions” that require tons of my time and energy.
My parish does a wonderful job of modeling slowing down during Advent Sunday liturgies. We usually prepare for Mass with a little singing practice and then the pastor gives us a question to spark conversation with our fellow pew mates. It is a lively time and everyone enjoys it. During Advent, however, we begin with quiet contemplation in the dark, no procession, no gathering hymn, presider seated in his chair. We are given the gift of a few moments to breathe.
It’s time to listen to the wise advice of Church tradition (and husbands everywhere) and make Advent a time of quiet preparation. My husband’s favorite thing about the days before Christmas is sending out cards to family and friends. I put him in charge of this task several years ago and he has done a great job. Our daughter was married in July and our card this year is a family photo from her wedding day. We plan on writing personal notes to loved ones this year. I am usually too busy to do that. Isn’t this simple gesture worth my time and energy more than running around like a crazy person? The answer to that question is a big fat YES! A gesture of love and concern for others is really what Christmas is all about.
Stephanie Baker is a Catechetical Consultant for Twenty-Third Publications and the author of Kitchen Table Conversations. She is a graduate of Stanford University, and has also earned a Masters in Pastoral Ministry from Holy Names University in Oakland. Stephanie has taught the Evangelization and Catechesis course at the Diocese of Oakland School for Pastoral Ministry and in the Holy Names University Pastoral Ministry Masters program. She is married to her husband, David, and has three grown children – John, Emily, and Will; a daughter-in-law, Meghan Baker; and a son-in-law, Kevin Klinck. She is proud grandma to Brooklyn Baker. Stephanie’s home is in Walnut Creek, CA and she is a member of Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill.