It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I’ve been deep in thought this Advent. Many changes are coming to our family. Over the last nine years, you’ve watched as our children grew from tots and teens to adulthood. In May, Megan is marrying Robert. Brennan will graduate from college the same month, and Claire will graduate from high school. Our oldest daughter, Ashley, is working hard, but she doesn’t have any life changes to spring on me in May.–at least, I hope not.
The whole family, including my mother and sister, were together for Thanksgiving, and I hope for a repeat Christmas Eve.
I know. It’s hard for me to believe too. With so many changes comes reflection, and I’ll be honest, I’m having a bit of a tough time. I’ve called my mother twice and cried.
Thank God for mothers everywhere.
I scattered seeds, hoping they fell on good soil, but I was still surprised when my young saplings grew into mature flowers and trees. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but still….
A cold wind blows outside my window, where I watch Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, and their friends, along with Mr. Squirrel, hog the bird feeder. In the center of my window next to the French doors is our Christmas tree. To stave off the winter blues, I also have a veritable garden in every window. Amaryllis and non-stinky paperwhites take top honors while the prettiest little white poinsettia also lights my way.
Today, I’ll get out the hyacinth vases, wash them and place the bulbs inside. I’ve had the hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator since last August. I still have tulips to plant outside, but I’m not feeling any enthusiasm for my task. Fall temperatures just wouldn’t come, and I got behind. Friday is supposed to be a beautiful day so I’ll plant them then. I intend to run up to church and plunk several more into the beds there. It will be a nice surprise come Easter. However, I also have plenty to do here at home to prepare for Christmas.
A mother’s work is never done.
If I remember to step outside the mad rush to get it all done, I feel such a sense of anticipation in the quiet season of Advent. As I wrap each gift and place it lovingly beneath the tree, I say a little prayer for each recipient. I hope they find peace and joy not overshadowed by the mad rush to get everything done.
In my faith, we don’t really celebrate Christmas until the big day, on the 25th of December. Then, our Christmas season goes on until the Baptism of the Lord mid-January. Some of my friends from church don’t even put up their trees until Christmas Eve. While I love that tradition, it isn’t practical for our family so I take a partial approach. We usually put up the tree around December 8. This year, I put up the tree and hung the stockings by the fire, but I was more restrained than ever in my decorating. Partly because my children are mostly grown. Since I only have to please Bill and me, I did what I thought was beautiful, but not overwhelming. A lot of Christmas decorations stayed in the bedroom closet, and that’s okay.
My heart is also full of a quiet anticipation created by Advent’s gentle feasts. On December 8, we celebrated one of the most important, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this holy day. People often think it’s about Jesus’ conception–the moment when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary–actually called the Annunciation–but December 8, is truly about Mary being conceived without sin. Our former pastor, Fr. Robert Wood, explained it in a way I, as a convert finally understood. He said–and I’m paraphrasing–that Mary, being the tabernacle for Christ, had to be without sin, or she couldn’t hold the glory of God within her womb. As a mother, I get chills every time I think about it. When he put it that way, I felt an indescribable joy in my heart, maybe a joy similar to what Elizabeth felt when John leaped in her womb at Mary’s visit. The entire season of Advent is all about journeys, fear and trepidation and finally, joy.
It’s a story that never gets old.
As I journey through this quiet season, I keep thinking of Luke 2:19, “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
I carry this thought with me as I shop, decorate, wrap, cook and bake. When I had young children, I raced through Advent trying to keep up with my schedule and theirs. Now, I have more time to reflect, and I’m focusing upon wonder, joy and gratitude. I need the season to be about more than gifts, parties and good cheer, although all of these are nice. I’m trying in the rush to take time to especially thank people working in the stores where I shop and in the restaurants where I eat. Preparation for Christmas is a marathon for them that doesn’t end on the big day. When I wish others a Merry Christmas, it’s not a political statement. Instead, it’s a heartfelt expression of the happiness I feel even if tinged with a bit of melancholy too. Christmas and Advent foster big conflicting emotions for almost everyone I know.
Whatever your faith or worldview, I wish you the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of new years. If you’re celebrating a different holiday during this season, I wish you joy in that too.
Now, I’m off to help my mother decorate her home. Then, I’m going to sit back, have a cup of tea and ponder miracles great and small, like how four children became women and men in the span of a mother’s heartbeat.
I bet Jesus’ childhood went fast for Mary too.