We’re almost at the end of the first week of Advent, and I haven’t done nearly as many Advent activities as I’d hoped. The girls have been busy at school and I’ve been busy finishing off my last week of classes at the university. We did decorate our house and pull out the Christmas books on Sunday, and we’ve managed to keep up our Jesse tree each day. The excitement of the season is building and I thought today would be a good day to reflect on three reasons I love Advent.
Today is St. Nicholas’ feast day, which often gets ignored because we’re so busy looking ahead to Christmas and Santa Claus. Sunshine and Lily know about Saint Nicholas because of their VeggieTales Christmas video, which takes a few liberties with the story but tells children “I can love because God loves me. I can give because God gave. Jesus’ love is why I’m smiling, why I’m giving every day.”
What we actually know about Saint Nicholas isn’t much. He was likely a bishop in the 300s, when Diocletian and Constantine were persecuting Christians. The most common story about Saint Nicholas is how he helped three young women who couldn’t get married because they had no dowries and so would be forced into prostitution. He was apparently born into a wealthy family and shared his wealth with others; hence, the legends about giving arose. Today (as I attempt to explain to Sunshine and Lily), we have a bigger legend: Santa Claus, a generous old man who gives toys to everyone.
Christmas is one of the most exciting times of the year for most people. Schools and universities take a couple weeks off; most businesses shut down for at least a day or more. Many people travel to visit family or plan elaborate parties. And of course there’s the shopping and the gift-giving. It’s easy for me to remember to excitement of childhood and the wonder of the lights, the music, the decorations. It’s also easy to remember other Christmases when I battled depression, listening to the music and making the decorations in an effort to force myself to feel merry like everyone else.
I’ve found that Advent helps me focus on the beauty of the season, rather than the stress and the consumerism and the pressure. When I take time to reflect and ponder during each week of Advent, and to enjoy these four weeks rather than rushing through them to the big event at the end, then Christmas is so much more fun. Two years ago, I focused on a specific word for each week of Advent. This year, I’ve simply tried to have an overall focus of “Christmas” for my blog for December—and to enjoy the girls’ excitement for the season. This building excitement is one of the biggest reasons I love Advent.
My husband and I have been reading various books about Mary lately, learning more about her role in God’s plan of salvation. Mother Theresa, Pope John Paul II, Saint Louis de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe and many other saints have said amazing things about Mary’s life and devotion to Jesus. At Christmas, I like to remember that while we spend four weeks preparing for Jesus’ birth, she spent nine months. I can’t imagine the preparations she went through—spiritually and emotionally and physically—to welcome the Saviour of the world, but I can try to adopt her attitude of pondering and prayer.
Those are the reasons I love Advent—what are your reasons? How do you celebrate this season?