Living Advent Intentionally

(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

We live in a culture where Christmas commercials start on Oct. 29. Ours is not a culture that knows how to wait.

So when I read the email from my editor that told me that I’d be blogging about my effort to be intentional about living Advent this year, rather than just viewing it as a four-week-long obstacle to Christmas, I waited until the last minute to write my first post. I hope she thought that was as clever as I did – think of it as method writing.

Honestly, my decision to not write the first installment of this assignment immediately upon receiving that email was almost entirely intentional. (Were there also some procrastinatory tendencies at play? Maybe. You’ll never know.) I’m going to try and live this season, which doesn’t become the Christmas season until December 25. Right now, it’s November 28, and it’s Advent, and that means that I’m supposed to be preparing myself for the celebration of the anniversary of baby Jesus’ arrival into the world. And, after 21 Christmases and years of Catholic education, as well as a degree in theological studies under my belt, I realize that I still have no idea what that means.

I’m a person who over-thinks things. If a friend cancels lunch, I immediately wonder if I did something wrong. I will think about this for a very long time, usually until I exhaust myself or until he tells me that no, I didn’t do anything wrong, he just got held up at his job — something I can’t relate to at the moment. (The having a job part, not getting held up.) So if I over-think something as simple as lunch with a friend, think of the possibilities when it comes to thinking about how to even begin preparing for the birth of the human incarnation of, oh, the Light of the World.

It’d be really easy to get worked up over that.

So I looked at Busted Halo’s Advent Calendartoday’s is a quote by Lucy Liu: “I try to believe like I believed when I was five … when your heart tells you everything you need to know.” Liu’s message is simple, and she speaks the truth, in all likelihood because she’s one of Charlie’s Angels: Keep it simple, like kids do. The best part about being a kid, besides the fact that it’s completely acceptable for you to run around with food on and around your face, is living life unfiltered, unfettered by politics and what other people think. Of course, that ends soon enough (and too soon), but the simplicity of childhood is exactly what Liu says: Relying on your heart to give you direction.

And so what does my heart tell me about living Advent intentionally? Even before I got this assignment, I hated seeing TV commercials for Black Friday sales starting at midnight the day after Thanksgiving. I hated that Thanksgiving tables had hardly been cleared before the Christmas ads started. It’s like we’re always running full speed ahead toward the next holiday and hardly ever slow down to enjoy the ones we’ve worked so hard to prepare for.

Christmas is going to be great and you all should be very proud of me because I just resisted dropping some hints aimed to my loved ones about what kinds of gifts I would like. But Christmas isn’t here yet. Lucy Liu’s words pack a punch for Advent — maybe I ought to start trying to live this season like a kid. Not the part where the kids are so excited on the night of Christmas Eve they can’t breathe, although holiday trips to the E.R. are always fun. No, the part where all the days leading up the Christmas are spent in wonder, joy and maybe — maybe — a genuine effort to figure out what it means exactly that Jesus was born in a stable two millennia ago.