Keeping Christ in Christmas for our family means preparing ourselves during Advent, so we are ready for Him when He comes. We listen to Him in His Word, we seek Him in our prayers and in our extra efforts to see and attend to the needs that around us. There are so many good ways to prepare the way, it can easily become overwhelming. My best advice is trust Him, and trust His Church to guide you to Him. He can take a little desire on your part inflame it with a passion ordered unto Himself, and you will scarcely know that anything is happening at all. His coming is usually small, and still.
It does take a wee bit of planning. What sort of prayers will you say? What gifts will you prepare for the Christ child? How will you awaken the wonder of the Advent of Christ in yourself and your family? How will this Advent make His voice more recognizable to you and your children, so that you are prepared for His coming, so that you can alert others? What part of the secular celebrations will you take part in, what will you let go of?
Mostly it takes a firm hope, that our fumbling and awkward fiats, which are all we have to offer Him, will be enough. We see through the glass darkly, it is very easy to not recognize His movements in our efforts to bring Christ into our Christmas preparations. It is too easy to convince ourselves that our efforts are not accomplishing anything. His desire for you is greater than yours for Him. So great He will enter into this broken humanity of ours, just for you, and just for me.
Even with this knowledge, sometime near Gaudete Sunday, if not sooner, I begin to have the creeping feeling that I am failing to do Advent right. Because we have not done enough volunteer work, or the right kind of volunteer work. Because our Christmas tree is up already -- or maybe it is not up yet. Because I love Christmas music and it is already playing. Because my children behave like this:
Naughty or Nice? Please note that Luke rarely goes about with his fly open anymore, but as for the Sass-master….well, she IS the Sass-master!
Why do I always, every year, think that I must first set up the perfect environment for Advent to truly be fruitful? Why am I always fighting off a feeling that my efforts are hopeless, and that I am alone in my failure? Why am I always afraid that He won’t come for me, or my children? That we did not do it right.
Every season I have to learn and re-learn that even my fumbling efforts, done with love and great yearning, are all Jesus needs to come to me, and to my children. It is my awkward, broken fiat that I offer Him. It is all I have. I yield to the structure and sacraments that Mother Church has provided, to help me and help my children order our hearts and our desires to Him.
Yes, (surprisingly) Santa will come, but the presents will not be remembered. Yet, if I ask my older children about what they remember about Christmas, they always remember that baby Jesus came, and we sang songs and prayed prayers, lighted candles and prepared the way for Him all during our Advent. They remembered that we longed for Him in the darkness and He came, and they know He will come again.
Peace and Grace to all, Heidi