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The signs are everywhere.  Houses and yards are adorned with twinkling lights and plastic snowmen.  Stores festively display Christmas decorations and the latest must-have items of the season.  Our mailboxes are bursting forth with invitations to gift exchanges, tasting parties, and other holiday festivities. At long last that magical season is upon us.  But wait! It’s mid-November I still have fall leaves in my yard and a pumpkin on my porch.  I haven’t even planned our Thanksgiving meal yet?   How did it get to be the Christmas season already?

That’s easy.  The retailing powers decided long ago that the more shopping days there are in the Christmas (or as it in now known, holiday) season, the more people will shop.  The lines that begin forming outside some large chain stores before the pumpkin pie is even off the Thanksgiving table, prove that the retailers are right.

Since the holiday season is the time when manufacturers and retailers do their best business, they have a vested interest in dictating exactly how we observe the moment in history when God became man.  They want us to prepare for Holiest events in human history by shopping and shopping and shopping and shopping and shopping! However, to truly prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord, maybe we should consider how people used to do this before they had the benefit of Wal Mart to help them.

Actually, we first need to get our minds around the concept of preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of the Lord. There has been a lot of hubbub in recent years about The War on Christmas, but actually the war has been on Advent.  Our retailers don’t give two hoots about what we do December 25.  They care about all the shopping days before it is actually Christmas.  You see, what is now known as the Christmas season (the time somewhere between Halloween and the opening of the last gift) is actually called Advent.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Traditionally Advent was a time of preparations.  Christians prepared themselves for Christ’s coming both as a baby in a manger and for His second coming at the end of time.  Parties, gorging on fudge, shopping and Hallmark movies are not actually longstanding Christian customs.  On the contrary, to prepare for the coming of Christ, Christians traditionally spent the days before Christmas in somber reflection.  Advent is a time to reflect on one’s shortcomings and to cleanse oneself in preparation for Christ’s arrival both spiritually in our hearts at Christmas and literally at the end of time.

But I live in the real (and increasing secular) world and I know that it is often unrealistic to cut out all the Christmas fun and  goodies until December 25th. There are class parties and office parties, family obligations and family expectations. Still, simply being aware that preparing for Christmas means more than wearing a Keep Christ in Christmas button to the mall is a start. So how can we observe Advent and truly prepare for the coming of the Lord in this hectic, consumer-driven season?

Shop early. One simple alternative is to spending Advent at the mall, is to shop before Advent begins. This takes some organization and forethought, but it keeps Advent simple and relatively stress-free.

Shop with companies that reflect Christian values.   SERRV, a nonprofit organization operated by Catholic Relief Services, offers beautiful handmade, fair trade gifts produced by families who struggle to earn a just wage. This article offers different perspectives on Christian consumerism and some suggestions for shopping too.

Shop local. Buying from a small mom and pop store helps support a family directly in a way that shopping the big chain stores does not. Not only that, these experiences are often more relaxing and more pleasant than negotiating a crowded mall. Shopping and chatting with friends and neighbors builds a sense of community that helps keep to get us in the Christmas spirit.

Buy an Advent Calendar.  A Christian one.  This charming tradition helps children focus on get excited about what (or who) is to come by daily drawing their attention back to the meaning of the season. Advent calendars can be even more powerful when paired with prayer.

Build a Spiritual Crib. This short daily devotion that is a great way to help kids prepare their hearts for the Baby Jesus.

Decorate in keeping with the season. Trim the tree and the mantel with purple ribbon, the liturgical color of Advent. Add red and green on Christmas Eve to signal the change from Advent to Christmas. Buy of make Christian ornaments for you tree like these or or these.  Pinterest is full of them.  Also consider getting or making a Jesse Tree.

Celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas. When my children were small, we would put their shoes in front of the hearth on the night of December 5th. The next day they would be filled with candy. Occasionally Saint Nicholas would leave a present like a new nativity set or some Christmas decorations. He always left a note encouraging the kids to keep preparing for the Baby Jesus through prayer and good behavior.
Light an Advent wreath. An Advent wreath and the prayers that accompany it are a visual and spiritual reminder that the Light of the World is coming to banish the darkness.
Of course the most important thing we can do to prepare for Jesus’s coming is to pray. Advent is a time to do this in a specific and beautiful way. My prayer is that my family and other Christian families will not get so caught up in the Christmas trappings that we fail to remember the One we celebrate on December 25 and every other day of the year.

ADVENT RESOURCES

Focus on the Family

Baby Steps for Celebrating Advent

Super Simple Ways to Celebrate Advent

Advent resources especially for Protestants

 


Today is the day!  Seven Posts in Seven Days!  When I read about Jen Fulwiler’s link up extravaganza, I was so excited! My blogging has been a bit sluggish lately, and I’m sure this seven day link-a-thon will be just what I need to get going. But the thing is, I’m not going. At least not on blog posts, at least not yet.

My weekend did not exactly go as I had envisioned it.  After giving my family the heads up about my need for some one on one time with my computer, I had high expectations for a little ME time. (Their blank stares should have tipped me off.) In my mind I would spend the better part of the weekend indoors reading and writing, with the only the faint sounds of my children playing outside and the soft tapping of my fingers flying across my keyboard to keep me company. I envisioned take out food and and my husband peeking his head into the bedroom door every few hours to say, “How’s it going, Hon? Can I get you anything?”  It was a nice dream.

But instead my weekend, as usual, was not my own. (If only I could have seen that coming.)  As I lay awake last night trying to decide if should get up and write instead of just tossing and turning, I thought about what I did do all weekend. What really kept me from writing even a single post or reading more than a few pages from the book I hope to review?  I once heard that people trying to lose weight keep of journal of everything they eat to try to track patterns and motivations for their eating habits.   Maybe this same technique will work with distractions.  Here are just a few of the high priority tasks that threw me off track this weekend.

I shopped for throw pillows.  Don’t judge.  At the time it seemed crucial. My daughters are 12 and 15, and about the only thing they agree on lately is that their room is boring and babyish. Fair enough. So when a little rearranging of the furniture and packing up the American Girl dolls and stuffed animals didn’t have the transformative effect they were hoping for, I agreed to buy them a few new accessories to punch up their room. I thought some funky new throw pillows would be an inexpensive and easy way to do the trick. I was so,so wrong. Have you shopped for throw pillows lately!  Unless we wanted pillows that looked like we won them throwing darts at the county fair, I had to let go of a little more cash than I had planned and the girls had to break open their piggy banks.  The girls also had to engage in their traditional arguing and bargaining before they could agree.  Also, since the nearest cool pillow store is an hour away from our little farm town, this outing took the better part of the day.   Oh well at least I was able to kill two errands with one 120 mile round trip.

So, I also shopped for crickets too.  And I guess I did my good deed for the day too.  Frank the Gecko will not die.  Not on my watch!

I returned a goat.  Several weeks ago we borrowed a goat.  Without going into all the details, I will tell you, boy goats stink.  They stink real bad.  For this reason we don’t keep one on the farm – except for when our gals are, shall we say, receptive.  In December when it seemed as though the time for romance was upon us, we borrowed Cosmo, the stinky boy goat, from some friends.  Then it snowed and snowed and snowed and snowed.  And we’ve been struck with Cosmo, the stinky boy goat, for weeks. On Sunday when it was sunny and warm, I jumped at the chance to return him to his rightful home and to try to start fumigating the goat barn.

I scoured Pinterest for low carb, healthy recipes.   All that shopping I did with my daughters on Saturday was a grave reminder to me that swimsuit and sundress season are just around the corner. And I am unfortunately suffering from a condition known as YPS.  YPS is a serious and debilitation condition caused by wearing yoga pants (not the same pair) during all of the 18 snow days we endured here in Arkansas.  Yoga Pants Syndrome prevents its victims from realizing the effects of baking cookies and eating popcorn all winter.  Within weeks sufferers from this condition find they can wear nothing but yoga pants.  It’s time to change my ways.  Past time actually.

I ate everyting in our house containing carbs, sugar, and excessive amounts of fat and calories.  That’s what you’re supposed to do before starting a diet right?  Purge.

I watched Downton Abbey.  I CANNOT BELIEVE CARSON AND HUGHES HELD HANDS!!!

I looked for that quote by Saint Francis de Sales about how distractions and frustrations can make you a saint.  I can’t find the quote, but, to paraphrase, he says that all of life’s little frustrations (a bore stops you, a child interrupts you, you burn dinner) do not require a saint, but they are certainly enough to create one.  Lord, please let life’s minor snags make me a saint.

Well, what do you know! Day one of seven done, and with a couple of hours to spare.  Of course tomorrow will have it’s own frustrations and interruptions, but with the help of Saint Francis de Sales, I hope to meet them with grace AND to get a second blog post finished.

 

Shared atThe Prairie Homestead Barn Hop


Here’s what we are talking about over at Charming Farming. It’s not a book post, but it’s something to think about in the days and weeks to come.

LC Hanby Hudgens, writer

The signs are everywhere.  Houses and yards are adorned with twinkling lights and plastic snowmen.  Stores festively display Christmas decorations and the latest must-have items of the season.  Our mailboxes are bursting forth with invitations to gift exchanges, tasting parties, and other holiday festivities. At long last that magical season is upon us.  But wait! It’s mid-November I still have fall leaves in my yard and a pumpkin on my porch.  I haven’t even planned our Thanksgiving meal yet?   How did it get to be the Christmas season already?

That’s easy.  The retailing powers that be have decided long age that the more shopping days there are in the Christmas (or as it in now known, holiday) season, the more people will shop.  The lines that begin forming outside some large chain stores before the pumpkin pie is even off the Thanksgiving table, prove that the retailers are…

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