As I sat in Mass, exhausted, just happy that I got there on time I realized that three candles were lit. Yes, the pink one, too. This rosy candle is supposed to tell us “Rejoice! Gaudete! Our Savior is almost here!” Instead, what I heard was, “Oh no! It’s almost Christmas and I still have so much to do!”
I battled my distraction with concerns over the traditions and social obligations as I tried to focus on the Advent readings. “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”
Geesh! I am nowhere near the desert. I am so worried about how behind I am. My head is at the grocery store, the toy store, work. No wonder my soul fails to hear this call. No wonder my soul fails to hear the rose-colored candle beckoning me to rejoice.
So I take a deep breath, and I let it go. And yes, I continue to be distracted. I mutter a few absent-minded “And also with you’s” as I hear, “And with your spirit” all around me. However, this time the culprits are my four-year-old and five-month-old. I’m distracted now by the present and the necessary, not the future, not the far-away, not the to-do list.
This doesn’t make the list go away. It doesn’t change my desire to have Advent and Christmas become special times for my children. It doesn’t make me want to abandon the Trees and the gifts and Santa. What it makes me want to do, is not worry about it. It doesn’t need to be perfect. We can take our time. We can let some things go. My children can build traditions and learn to be flexible at the same time.
My ideal is to finish most of my shopping and planning before Advent, so I can focus more on the spiritual preparations for Christmas. This year, more work outside the home, some extra doctor appointments for some of the kids, and a new baby have prevented that. Likewise, my personal, spiritual preparation is also lacking.
Something’s got to give. Maybe we won’t make peanut brittle for the neighbors this year. Maybe the garbage man will be happy with a gift card. If we don’t manage the Jesse tree this year, it will make more of an impact next year. I’ll just need to let it go.
There is still work to do. I’m still going to need to take a few evenings out to finish some shopping and wrapping. But, I’m also going to take some moments during each preparation to enjoy and to ponder in my heart, the deeper meanings behind all these traditions which lead us to this little Baby’s birthday, the day our God became Incarnate.