Keeping the Spirit

IMG_0118Today is the first day of Advent in Christian liturgical calendars. It is also the “new year” for Catholics, following the Feast of Christ the King.

I’m home this morning. We attended church last night and my buddy during Sunday morning Mass is sick. So I’m enjoying a Sunday morning at home, with my Christmas decorations illuminated, The Year Without a Santa Claus playing on my computer, and the first Advent candle burning nearby. Yes, I’m a mess.

I love Advent. The music can be hauntingly beautiful and I love the many artistic takes on Luke 1. It is also a time for contrition and repentance, something Christians can forget in the mad rush towards December 25. I’m no different; my own home setting is a mishmash of liturgical seasons. But I like the contrast–both the visual ones in my home and the theological ones presented to us in Luke 1 and Luke 2. (Luke is my favorite Gospel for literary reasons; I love the beauty of the language).

Yesterday, after some Advent prayer and reflection, I geeked out, making a Spotify Advent playlist and reconstructing the Scriptural and theological bases for the Ave Maria prayer. I have a PowerPoint slide, in case you are interested (PS – I know you are not; I often create PowerPoints just for me. It’s sad).

Every year around this time, I seem to be writing about how hard this Advent and Christmas season may be for many of us. This year is no different, sadly. I think I first wrote about this when my mom died right before Thanksgiving, five years ago. Since then, every year, I am aware of the many reasons people may struggle this time of year–loss, discord in society, scandal, and acrimony among friends and family.

What to do?

  • For praying people, pray. Sounds obvious, but every year we are always somehow surprised that we get drunk on seasonal craziness. All of the sudden, we can find ourselves far grumpier and meaner than we were a mere two weeks before.
  • For non-praying people, maybe give it a try. Leave what I like to call a blithering voice mail for God. Are you mad at things, or at Him “if he even exists?” Ok–let Him know. He can take it. God can deal with our anger at Him. He’d rather hear from you in your anger than not at all.
  • Lay off the social media fighting. Really, that should be true all year, but let’s face it, we’ve all fallen victim to it (or we’re the creator of the discord–yes, I’m talking to you, and me). Just. Stop. Social media has an amazing feature — hide or unfollow your grumpy, complaining friends, at least for a season. That doesn’t mean you don’t engage with them off social media, but do it on appropriate terms. Fighting over politics on social media is not the kind of engagement that fosters peace and goodwill towards men. Even if you are right. Are you making a point, or are you making a difference? Stop making a point, at least briefly, for the benefit of your own soul and for those who come in contact with you.
  • Watch something silly (right now Heat Miser is singing). Hallmark movie? Charlie Brown Christmas? Yes, please! It will lighten your heart and your load. Sing Christmas songs. Yes, even you, liturgically-obsessed Catholics. Mix the seasons. Don’t be annoying.

And if you see me being grumpy on social media, well, send me this blog post.



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