I feel bound yet supported by that great tool because it lends structure to my activities. I like to start with a plan and be flexible enough to change mid-stream, if necessary. A calendar provides that grid where I can start. Climactic seasons of the year help guide activities on the calendar; so do seasons of the church year. Here we are in Advent, the beginning of the church calendar. This is one calendar feature I really stick to, sometimes to the chagrin of my family. Adhering to the church calendar flies in the face of America’s retail calendar. Christmas music and decorations at Halloween keep me out of shops. I really don’t like them at Thanksgiving, either. Sappy tunes make me change a radio station.
Christmas music isn’t usually played nor decorating begun in my house until Advent starts, that is, when the Christian calendar says – four Sundays before Christmas Day, and not a day before. On some years, like this one, that means Advent is a relatively short season. I like long Advents. I need all the time I can get to prepare for Christmas since I won’t begin until Advent does. This self-inflicted rule can make life hard. There are so many things to do in Advent to prepare for Christmas, that now I feel like I have to prepare for Advent just so I can actually enjoy the season. Prepare to prepare? Out of self defense, I have to say stop. I like to be organized. I am analytical. I like to compartmentalize. I love spreadsheets and will one day master all their features to my benefit. I love the traditions of preparing for Christmas, so I want to savor the time.
Why prepare for Christmas in the first place? I prepare because that’s what I’ve been taught (per Bishop Gregg’s statement to the vestry last Saturday that children tend to carry on what they know); because the season of Christmas is an important celebration of God’s love for us (per Bishop Gregg’s sermon theme last Sunday). The simple version is that we reenact the humble birth of a mighty savior. The long-term answer is that this is a step in preparing for the second coming of Christ. Either way, it’s a time to renew our faith in God’s caring for us. I cringe with the secularization of Christmas, yet I realize that someone may find the love of God through that venue and maybe it’s not my place to discount that possibility. God’s great power is beyond my comprehension, so I try to remember that God is greater than I! Could Christmas still have meaning if I didn’t prepare? It will come, with or without my participation and readiness.
I have two godchildren. As a godparent I feel that it is my duty, and the duty of all godparents (take note those who just had godchildren confirmed on Sunday), to help nurture the godchild’s spiritual life. I recognize the anniversary of their baptism, we have conversations about spiritual and personal matters, and I let them know that I am available as a surrogate parent when they need someone with whom to talk. I also try to be sure they have a good Advent calendar.
A good Advent calendar is not one that begins on December 1st (except those years when Advent really starts then), but one that begins on the first Sunday of Advent. This year that day was December 2nd. Another feature of a good Advent calendar is that it has some connection to the story of the Nativity. I love chocolate, but an Advent calendar that has 25 little doors hiding pieces of cheap chocolate is not really an Advent calendar. The consumerism of many Advent calendars has gone berserk. Toys? Aren’t there going to be a plethora of toys on Christmas as it is? So many so that by the end of unwrapping everything the child can’t even remember all that was received. That’s a topic for another blog.
My children’s godmother once sent a terrific Advent calendar. We still have it and occasionally use it. It is one large book with a series of mini books in it. Each mini book has part of the story of Mary and Joseph and, finally, the baby Jesus. The text is Biblical, the drawings are colorful and lend to the story. I bought that same book for my younger goddaughter and her sister one year. This year I endeavored to find an online daily Advent calendar for my older goddaughter. A new teenager who lives in Middle Tennessee, I communicate with her through modern media. We are Facebook friends and we exchange emails sometimes. I finally found a dry but current Advent calendar from Trinity Wall Street. Each day has printed Biblical text with a short audio commentary. We’ll see if any meaningful discussions commence from that source. I think I’ll send her the link to this blog series – maybe it will prompt some good Advent reflection. We’ll take Advent one day at a time, mindful of God’s love for us. And then we’ll enjoy Christmas – all twelve days of it and the wisemen’s journey to find God incarnate.