Living the Advent Season: Preparing for  Christmas

As we prepare for Christmas I want to encourage all of us to really think about the gifts that we give. When is enough, enough? How many more “things” can we have  . . . and do they really make us happy?  I want to offer an invitation to you: for each one of your loved ones, select a gift that will foster life within them long after the Christmas season.

  • Years ago our Mother Ines gave my brother a little, thin book written by Father Caussade, S.J. It was entitled, “Abandonment to Divine Providence”.  (More recent translations have different titles, i.e., “The Joy of Full Surrender”, “Trustful Abandonment”.)  My brother did not do spiritual reading. I am not sure he even knew that such a thing existed as spiritual reading. I don’t know when Mother Ines gave it to him. Perhaps it was for a wedding present. I do know that before he and Meg celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary, Larry, my brother, was diagnosed with leukemia. Every night before they went to bed, Larry and Meg, ages 29 and 27, sat side by side and read a chapter of Abandonment to Divine Providence. We never know the good we can do…

 

  • A friend of mine recently told me that he and his wife had given their two adult children a spiritual book last Christmas. Both kids thanked their parents but no mention of the books was ever made again. Their dad thought the books had gone the way of many other Christmas gifts.  Several weeks ago, their daughter made a comment to her recently married brother about the reading in the book for that date.  Warm enthusiasm stirred. He had read the same reading the night before and this sparked a sharing between siblings quite unlike any other. The brother’s last quiet comment to his sister was, “My wife and I read from that book together every evening.”  We never know the good we can do . . .

 

  • Very recently I heard the story of a man, far from his Catholic upbringing, who went home to bury his father, his last living parent. As he and his siblings were preparing their family home for sale, he saw the crucifix on the wall in his father’s room. It all came back to him. Growing up he remembered that crucifix had special significance to his father. When his father was a small boy, his father had given it to him.  The man took the crucifix from the wall, the most treasured possession he took from his father’s house, and hung it in his own home. When he shared the story of the crucifix with his own children, it began the journey home to the Catholic Church for the whole family.  We never know the good we can do if we are simply open to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

When I was preparing my thoughts for this talk, I went to our bookstore to look for some good titles I could suggest to you. There was quiet music on in the bookstore in the Sacred Heart Retreat House and only a few other people were browsing.  As I went through book after book I realized that there was not one book I couldn’t recommend. There are books for young mothers, for those who are avid readers, for men, those who may have time only to read while they drink their coffee in the morning, for teenagers, books about saints. All of them are sources of inspiration, comfort, insight and truth. Imagine if you specially selected a book for a niece, your Dad, someone special and wrote a sincere and loving inscription in it? Chances are, this gift won’t be outgrown or tossed out. I suspect it will have special meaning long after other gifts have been long forgotten.  We never know when Our Lord will use it to strengthen, prepare, encourage your loved one. I also realized that the 45 minutes in the bookstore went quickly and when I stepped outside– I felt renewed. Imagine if you marked off time on your calendar to do Christmas shopping – and afterwards did not feel depleted, but rather felt rejuvenated? What a wonderful way to express your love to others and while giving yourself a mini-retreat to prepare for His Birth.

Give yourself mini-retreats often.

Don’t wait…