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Recent college graduate José Martinez attempts to get back to the true meaning of Advent and prepare properly for Christmas this year, living alternatively to the overwhelming consumerism surrounding him.

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November 28th, 2011

Living Advent Intentionally

 
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(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.

 
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The Author : José Martinez
José Martinez is a writer who works primarily for Southern California Public Radio, reporting on the South Los Angeles beat and focusing on issues of health and quality of life. He's a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and has a degree in theological studies. From the way he writes, it's clear he thinks he's funny. There are few things he loves more than California burritos, the way his dogs run into walls, and road trips. He'd like it if you tweet him.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Lucia

    It wasn’t until I was halfway through your article that I realized that I had read the title incorrectly….I read it as Living Advent INTERNATIONALY. Probably because of the 10 plus years that we lived in South America. Our first Christmas was quite a shock…..very few ads for toys and mid-night Masses that started at 10 pm so that everyone could be home, with family, to welcome the Christ Child at midnight…with food, music and fireworks exploding until after 3 AM. Among the local children the next morning there is no rush to look for presents, but an atmosphere more like our Thanksgiving…family and friends gathered to celebrate a very special event….Jesus’ Birthday! (Not to worry children…children do receive gifts, but on “their” special day…the Day of The Child….way back in September!) What a wonderful experience celebrating 4 weeks of Advent building to a glorious climax on Chirtmas Eve that continues through little Christmas on Jan 6. Fortunately 10 years is a long time in a childs life, so even though we have been back in the states for 5 years now, our children still don’t make long “I want” lists but can still look past all the toy ads and focus on the real “reason for the season” while finding ways to share their good fortune with others. People often look at our large family and tell me that I am “blessed” or “have a place in heaven”….however as I think about our 8 children, I think…they have no idea how truly blessed I am!

  • AnitaH

    As much as I love it, I cringed when I saw TBS running “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” in early Nov. “Really, you couldn’t wait three weekends to run this” was my first thought. And then I settled in for the Who’s in Whoville to remind me of what Christmas, and life, is really about.

  • John Gresham

    “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” OH NO! THERE ARE ONLY 26 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT!

  • Robin

    I enjoyed your article, too. I’m glad that I’m not the only one bothered by the early Christmas commercials, music, and sales. Your point about living this season like a child resonated with me as I have 7-year-old twins and it’s been fun experiencing Christmas through their eyes. One thing that really made me proud was when they starting writing down their wish list for Santa. Among the typical 7-year-old stuff were these two gems: help from God and food for the poor. Now that’s living the spirit of Christmas!

  • Rosemary

    Jose….fun article to read. Your life has been blessed in many ways. I enjoy your humor but do try to define yourself more as gifted and loved and less “unemployed”….who knows, maybe it will even help your employment status. Happy Advent! The season for HOPE!

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