When we moved from New York to the South, we were more than surprised when we realized that many, if not most, people put their trees up the day after Thanksgiving (or before!) That was a foreign concept to me. I just love the Christmas decorations, but it seemed that people were overlooking Advent and jumping straight to Christmas. I was adament that I would carry on the family tradition of waiting to decorate. Maybe I became a tad bit judgemental of that practice of decorating so early.....until I became an adult.
As an adult I was so excited to have my own Christmas tree and have collected beautiful ornaments over the years. When I was single I'd wait to week of Christmas to decorate. Because I was working long hours, I was exhausted, WAY behind of Christmas shopping and that week ended up being so stressful, that my focus on the true meaning of Christmas was compromised. Plus, it was a lot of work only to be taken down a couple of weeks later. After a few years of doing that, I was frustrated and wanted to give in to the temptation of decorating early. I was really conflicted because I didn't want to sell out and subscribe to the whole marketing madness that seems to lose the entire focus of these two holy seasons, but I wanted to really enjoy the season.
A few years ago, I really had to think things through. The holidays were a depressing time for me. I wanted to be married and have a family and it seemed that's what this season was centered around. I often felt frustrated, sad and forgotten. And then on top of that I was denying myself the small pleasure of sprinkling my home with lovely and nostalgic surroundings. I thought, discerned, prayed - and this is what I came up with: The season of Advent is about waiting and preparing - not about home decor.
My entire adult life has been an intense practice in waiting. I've waited for clarity in terms of a career. I waited during a long (unchosen) vocation as a celibate, single Catholic woman in ministry for the vocation I longed for in my heart - marriage. And that was a LOOOONNNNGGG wait. I waited to become a mother through miscarriage, subsequent infertility and an adoption roller coaster. Those are some of the bigger ones, but there have been MANY lessons in waiting for me.
And the key about Advent isn't just about the wait. It's about what is WITHIN the wait. I believe God hides Himself in our times of waiting - and when we embrace the wait, learn to wait well, and prepare our hearts --- it's then that we embrace God - and allow Him to embrace us. And even though we associate typical waiting with anxiety - there is a special peace learning to embrace our waiting and to be still enough to find God there.
I saw this video this morning and thought it was magnificent reflection and challenge about Advent.
I'm chuckling as I read this post, because my home is still decorated for fall. Even though I've given myself permission to jump into the holiday decorating earlier ~ I've also given myself permission to not be too driven to make it happen. Things have been busy, and it will get done, but I'm enjoying letting things go and doing the best we can without stressing ourselves out.
For those of you who might enjoy an Advent meditation, I found this article about knowing how to wait.