It can be tempting to use false benchmarks to gauge our season preparedness. Pinterest lures us into not wanting to go another December without a homemade Advent calendar. Facebook tells us that we should be deeply engaged in making all sorts of Advent moments. Our own mom-o-meter indicates that all persons in the house ought to be appropriately patient and well-behaved for the entirety of the month. All three unreasonable measures of the season are sure to result in guilt and sadness at the shambles of our household’s spirituality!
Happily, our Church provides three basic measures for how we can check in on our Christmas preparation:
Wait a minute, we think, that sounds like a lot like Lent! And it’s true because Advent, like Lent, is also a “purple time” in the Church. It can be easy to go off the rails a bit in Advent, with the abundance of everything good that we have. With these three guideposts, though, we can easily see what area in our family’s observance of Advent needs some attention. Reminding our kids that it’s still purple time also helps the family connect daily life at home with what’s going on in the liturgy. Father’s purple vestments tie directly into the family fast from Christmas cookies and Mom’s workout videos (a sure sign of this penitential season!)
Even though it’s purple time, however, Advent can still have a different flavor from the purpleness of Lent. Lent is a long, hard struggle against sin, a preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Advent, though, is a preparation for the Infant Jesus, and should be as warm as getting ready for a newborn (lovely, but still difficult, as any 9-month-pregnant woman can attest to!) Simcha Fisher recently wrote about her bishop’s directive to keep the Infant Jesus as the center of Advent preparations.
Two of these disciplines, prayer and almsgiving, are still common to see all around us before Christmas, but fasting is a bit more counter-cultural. Fasting counters the vice of gluttony, overindulgence, a filling-up of the emptiness inside. Our fasting can strengthen our own belief in the dignity of ourselves as children of God. And that special strength can spill over into our interactions with our family and friends, as we then make extra efforts (sometimes heroic efforts!) to fill them up this Advent, doing what we can to sate their thirst for God’s love and to be recognized as His children.
Are we doing Advent right, we might ask ourselves this December. It depends on how purple our hearts and homes are.
Copyright 2015 Meg Matenaer
Photo by mensatic (2015) via Morguefile