Saturday, December 28, 2013

Coming Close to the Mystery of Christmas

You may have noticed that I wrote less frequently during Advent than I did last year. There is a reason for that. Last year, I became acutely aware that although I was teaching children to come close to the mystery of Christmas through stillness and peace, I was doing a lousy job of it myself. Sure, there was a lot to be done as with every Advent season: my daughter's birthday that always falls between 3rd and 4th Advent, the GP Trainer's Training in Holland, the Advent Club and the usual rush to find presents and decorate the house. But I found myself not being really centered in Christ and His peace, and just worrying about a lot about things that in hindsight weren't that important.

This year, I ended up experiencing the most meaningful Advent that I had in many years. Several things helped with this, but the main thing was that I went into Advent with the mindset that it was okay if I didn't get everything done and a determination not to let the business take over my life.

I chose a couple of "mentoring" aids to shepherd me through this time:

Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri Nouwen - This book has short devotions and scripture passages for each day based on Nouwen's writings. It also has a suggested "activity" for each day. I love that the activities vary and appeal to different spiritual styles. For example, some are symbolic, while others are action-oriented. I did not put pressure on myself to do each activity, but rather chose the ones that were most meaningful to me. The book takes you through Christmastide, so I am still reading it.

The liturgy from Creighton University's Praying Advent and Celebrating Christmas

and the Liturgy of the Hours from Divine Office

(Both of these are Catholic resources, and although I am not Catholic, I firmly believe in the Worldwide Church and allow myself to be enriched by many different Christian traditions.)

Then, I carved out time each morning and most evenings to pray and read.

These simple prayers and devotions helped me to remember what was important and actually practice Advent in a fresh way. Now, I am using them to enter into Christmastide as well.

Another thing that helped was that I bought the majority of gifts, especially the ones that needed to be mailed to relatives in the States, in November.: ) And I didn't allow myself to worry about finding the things that could be bought at the last minute.

And I chose to limit and simplify the preparations for Advent Club. We had less art projects and more open-ended stations. That helped immensely with the stress-load!

There were still personal and financial crises during this time, but there was an inner peace and strength from God to deal with them that was not there last year. 

As mentors of children, it is so important that we also tend to and cultivate our own spiritual lives. Advent is over, but it is still Christmastide. If something was missing in your Advent experience, then allow yourself to be drawn closer to God during the rest of this Christmas season. And then think about what might help you to grow during the "green and growing" Sundays before Lent.

Giotto's Adoration of the Magi, Source:

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