On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Again this year Advent seems to be approaching with devastating speed, finding me unprepared for the Christmas season. All around me are people who do their Christmas shopping in October, while I have managed to so far purchase one gift (a magazine subscription) online. I refuse to shop on Black Friday because I am attempting to not allow our Christmas every year to be just about consumerism. Yet presents are part of the whole event, so eventually I must shop.

In September I had great good intentions of spinning and knitting for Christmas, but somehow the fall got eaten up with other things, most of them important things. So here I am about to enter Advent with spinning and knitting undone. Once again the preparation for Christmas will happen mostly during Advent. Oh, yeah, that's right, Advent is supposed to be the season to prepare for Christmas. So maybe I'm not quite so behind after all...

Yesterday, I did take note of the fact that I was at least 3 days behind tradition, however. The traditional day for making plum pudding (according to all the books) is Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. The only problem is that that Sunday happens to also be the feast of Christ the King (our parish feast). Consequently, we have Adoration, Vespers, and Benediction on Sunday afternoon. There is no time between Mass in the morning and the beginning of those celebrations to make plum pudding (a several hours long affair). To add to the complications this year, I had to be at the hospital with my husband's aunt right after Benediction for several hours. Of course I hadn't yet manage to buy the ingredients for the pudding anyway... Monday was another hospital day, Tuesday it was Bone Builders, then bringing auntie home, then running errands related to her care. So Weds. was, quite literally the first day available for plum pudding assembly. Of course Weds. was also devoted to birthday cake baking for my first born. So I spent much of the day yesterday cooking and I am now about to descend to a kitchen where the dishwasher needs unloading and loading once again.

On Saturday I'm scheduled to go to an Advent wreath making workshop. My offspring have been looking disparagingly at my artificial greens wreath for years, so when I saw that there was an opportunity to learn to make a real Balsam wreath I jumped at it. Of course, being nowhere near as "crafty" as some people suggest, this may be a bigger challenge than the plum pudding. However, I am determined that this year we'll have a decent Advent wreath and actually use it (sometimes in the past few years it's sat there as a lovely decoration with the candles somehow never lit).

My plans for Advent are hopefully not overly ambitious. I'll bake cookies on St. Nicholas Day and deliver them to some special people. I'll get the St. Nicholas statue out of the cupboard. I'll get back to regularly doing at least Morning Prayer out of the breviary, I'll buy the presents, prepare the special foods, clean the house, and maybe send out Christmas cards. I want this Advent season to be one of preparation spiritually (hence the Advent wreath and the breviary) as well as physically. I want it to be a season where I truly am showing Christ's love to others rather than just a season where I am driven by the merchants of the world.

I like the thought that Advent is the beginning of a new Church year that it's a time to begin again as well as a time to prepare. For in beginning again we do prepare for Christ's coming. It's easy to feel out of synch with the rest of the world around. The blow up Santas are already on people's lawns, Christmas lights are already turned on and Christmas trees were selling like hot cakes the day after Thanksgiving. We have not entered into that mad rush and when I go to Mass on Sunday I won't find Christmas decorations. There will be purple vestments and banners, there will be an Advent wreath and we will sing things like Come, Come Emmanuel.

Last year during Advent my mother-in-law was dying (perhaps one reason why things like Advent wreaths got rather overlooked!). I spent much of the first two weeks of Advent singing Come Thou Long Expected, Jesus to her. She spent a lot of hours singing the first two bars of Away in a Manger. It is a bittersweet memory. Christmas ultimately happened for us, but God called her before that. It was the second family death I had experienced during this season of the year. Somehow that makes the idea of Advent an even more poignant one. For in Advent we celebrate Christ's coming and in death, in a certain sense, he comes for believers.

I no longer have little people around to teach about Advent, now it's mostly preparing my own heart and my own home. I'm hoping for a less stressful Advent this year, but I almost doubt it can be a more spiritually reflective one than last year when I sang over and over "From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee" while holding the hand a dying woman.

Here's wishing you a blessed Advent with prayers that you will be able to enter into the spirit of this season rather than the spirit that the world tempts us to be caught up in.