My Holiday Star

A few weeks ago, I went to Dunkin Donuts (alternately referred to as “the shrine” in our household) with my sister-in-law Kathleen. She offered to buy me a doughnut, and I requested the pumpkin pie variety I’d seen in advertisements. Unfortunately, we arrived a few weeks too late for that. Instead, we split a festive little number called the holiday star.

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Shortly thereafter, I dressed Henry in his star-covered snowsuit, and somehow was reminded how close his birthday is to Christmas. It was the birth of a new nickname. I’m sure he’s going to be really excited about it when he’s thirteen, but for now, there aren’t any complaints.

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A Not So Adventy Advent

December is a busy time. We all know this. We try not to add in too many extra things, because there is more than enough implied by simply stating the name of the month. “December.” Eek.

 

I had vague intentions of making time for a quiet spiritual journey this Advent. I wasn’t going to listen to Christmas music until December 25. I was going to set aside time for prayer. I was going to read something (what, was never determined) to prepare my heart for Christ. But then I remembered:

 

I have a three-year-old and a baby.

 

Of course it is possible to make time for reading, for prayer, for quiet with small children, but as we approach Christmas, I’m finding my joy and gratitude coming from the moments when we are together, when we’re singing, when we’re laughing, when we’re reading Scripture passages for our Jesse tree and relating them to the very noisy Bible study we’re involved with. It’s as I’m wrapping gifts and baking muffins and cookies that I’m thinking about how grateful I am for my family. It’s while I allow myself to listen to contemporary Christmas music, and anxiously await singing “Joy to the World” at Mass on Christmas morning that I am aware of the real gift we remember at this time of year.

 

It’s a little more worldly than I expected of myself, but this is what the season is for me this year. It’s studying the Word of God to read aloud at Mass. It’s ministering to my family by making thirty paper snowflakes and supplying festive sprinkles. It’s remembering that this little guy has a birthday coming up, too.

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It’s knowing that Christ comes to me where I am, and as long as I’m doing what I can to prepare my heart for him—even if it doesn’t look how I thought it would—it will be a very merry Christmas indeed.

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Happy Liturgical New Year!

This morning after Mass, the orange and yellow flowers were taken from the altar, and a host of volunteers began to ready the church in evergreens, purple, and pink to usher in the season of Advent.

 

Hooray!

 

I always love Advent, but this year it’s especially exciting. With a little boy to turn one just days before Christmas, and the countdown until my sister-in-law and two brothers-in-law fly in for the holiday, there is much joyful expectation building in our house. Tomorrow we will take out the outdoor Christmas decorations and Advent wreath and calendar, and deck our halls inside and out. I love that Advent starts on December 1 this year, so seasonal and liturgical calendar are perfectly synched.

 

It’s time to start watching my favorite Christmas movies and to try out a dairy-free hot cocoa recipe I came across recently. Some shopping is already finished, and my mind is spinning with plans for other thoughtful tokens of love and gratitude. This year, it really does feel like the most wonderful time of the year!

 

Jacob came to me this morning and asked if I knew the “Rejoice” song. Then he started singing the chorus of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” which John had clearly just taught him. Little kids’ pleasure at traditions like these are contagious, but it also makes me very aware that I really better believe what I’m teaching my kids. Christmas runs deeper than Elf and ornaments, and I need to figure out how I’m going to make time to ready my heart, and my kids’ as well.

 

I think some of that this year will be remembering that this is not a joyful time for everyone. People everywhere are dealing with loss, pain, suffering, and loneliness. We are very blessed, and we have the joyful obligation to share those gifts with others. How can we include that in our prayer, our decorating, our gift-giving?

 

Thanksgiving might have passed already, but we celebrate the Eucharist every day, and that word means “thanksgiving.” For my heart especially, thanks is what I need to give most this year.

 

 

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