Sunday, December 24, 2017

6 Things About Christmas You Might Not Know

At my age of ‘slightly 60’ you’d think I’d know a thing or two about the Season. After all, I've faithfully celebrated Christmas my entire life. Yet a couple of these revelations surprised me. They might just surprise you too!

Why We Hang Stockings

Why do we hang stockings at Christmas? Watch this brief, informative video so find out about the true story of the REAL Santa Claus.

The Christmas Tree

We’ve often heard that the Christmas Tree has pagan origins. What is it with people accusing the Catholic Church of either being pagan or usurping pagan holidays and symbols? Here is another take on the subject that has a much more saintly tone.

Biological and Chronological Reason to Believe Jesus Was Born in December

We’ve all heard the naysayers, “No one knows when Jesus was truly born. People just had to pick a date and so they transferred His birth to a pagan holiday”. Well, there might just be a few pieces of proof, found both in scripture and the calendar.

For another take, check out this helpful information.

The Significance of Swaddling Clothes

Do you know the significance of Jesus being swaddled at birth? Watch this brief video! Jesus truly is the Lamb of God!

Jesus' Birth in Bethlehem Prefigures the Eucharist

What's amazing is that from the first instant of the Incarnation (God made Man) we were given a discourse on the Eucharist. There have always been subtle ways that point to Christ's role in our Salvation.

Bethel - Means the House of God.
Bethelehem - Means House of Bread.
LaMange (the manger) - Means t o consume.

The Season of Christmas BEGINs on Christmas

Contrary to popular sentiment on the Hallmark Channel or children’s stories, Christmas is a Season. The days leading up to this Season is the Season of Advent (now celebrated for four weeks in most churches). Christmas Eve ends Advent and Christmas Day heralds the Season of Christmas. Check out the neatly laid out basics by National Catholic Register.

So, there we have it, some things you may or may not have known about Christmas. How many were already familiar to you? Let us know in the comments. Three of these were news to me!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

We Need Advent to Properly Celebrate Christmas

Leading up to the festivities of Christmas, Advent can bring many pressures to an already hectic time. Keeping Christ in Christmas is certainly our first objective but life's realities must garner our attention as well. Balance needs to be found so that you approach the Season in a way that is right for you. As an individual, your life is unlike the life of any other. Your family responsibilities, job obligations, and the things that just happen - this all fits into the equation of what makes up the entire picture of your life.

Sometimes stepping back and looking at the whole picture is a helpful means of finding balance for your reality.

1. Don't feel inadequate because you are not keeping up with all of the many opportunities to have the best Advent ever. You cannot do it all. You probably are not even able to fulfill your own personalized agenda each and every day. Be honest with yourself and grab onto the things you can do and prioritize. That way, your spiritual life will remain at the top but, your other duties will also stand a chance.

2. Instead savor Advent - a season purposely focused on waiting and preparation. Every day, try to find a quiet moment to allow God to fill the spaces in your heart that need comfort, courage, and grace. For a mom, that might only be available early in the morning, late at night, or while waiting in the car while performing mom’s taxi service. Yet, you can make it special nonetheless. Breathe deeply and invite Him in.

3. Do not think you have to be Martha Stewart or recreate every 'wow' project on Pinterest, some years I make the most perfect cookies, from scratch. There are the cookies of my German heritage and there are the cookies that look picture perfect with colorful icing. I manage to get it all in because I feel inspired and because life has allowed it that year. Other years, it simply fails to happen. There might be too many choir and Christmas play practices. Or maybe I have chosen to sew a few gifts. Sometimes I simply feel uninspired. I have had to learn to just let life ebb and flow. The main thing is to make it to confession, prepare for His Coming, and to make sure others feel (and see) Christ's love in me.

4. Instead simplify by choosing one or two things per day, so that you can enjoy Advent with your family. Maybe you are like me and you want to be structured but your mind wanders restlessly between all of the objectives I have set up for myself. When that feeling threatens to steal my peace of mind, I go to the time-honored system of list making. The list begins with the most important objectives and dwindles down to the optional. If I set my mind to completing the items on my list, one at a time, it all of a sudden becomes doable.

5. So the second (or third) Sunday of Advent has come and gone. Don't throw your hands up in despair because Advent has already begun and you're feeling behind. Is it really too late? Not a chance. Remember, we serve a God of many chances. However many days remain, that is how many opportunities you still have to 'get with the program'. What is your hold up? Start today!

6. Don't over emphasize the material - whether it's preparing a feast (or replicating a French pastry shop), gifting, or decor. Some years the financial picture is less promising than you would like. That is the year that you give from the heart. Some of the most memorable gifts have been the ones that cost very little but hit just the right spot in the heart. Bags made for the girls out of left over fabric, a heritage cookbook, or a specially handcrafted booklet. These are actually the ones most cherished.

8. In the rushed and demanding days leading up to family gatherings, savor each aspect, make each prayer, book, project or gift sublimely important by pouring your love into it. Allow Jesus to sit at your side and offer these gifts to Him as well.

When everything on your list is checked off, the last package is wrapped, and your special times with Jesus have strengthened your spirit, that is when you will become most aware of the beauty of the Season. The glow of the faces around you as you attend Mass, the soothing nourishment your soul receives when receiving Him in the Eucharist, and the afterglow of the remembrance of a humble Child Who came to save us all - that will be your Gift.

The hurry and worry will be washed away. Your preparation and readiness to greet Him will all fall into place and you will realize that we truly need the anticipatory time of Advent to fully celebrate Christmas.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Advent Season, For Us and For Others

Everything about the First Sunday of Advent urged us to be ready. We heard about those who were wise and prepared and those who were foolish and did not. Staying awake, not in the literal sense of losing sleep but in preparedness, is the order of the Advent Season.

We are reminded to look at the many ways we diligently prepare in our earthly lives. Only a fool would fail to prepare for a hurricane by attentively watching the weather and battening down the hatches. It would be a poor host who was ill prepared when anticipating holiday guests. If, like my own community, there is a contaminated water boil advisory. Do we not boil even the water for washing dishes?

Yet, as detrimental to our well being it would be for us to scoff at weather, important events, or cautionary community announcements how much more important is preparation for the King of Kings?

Seasons like Advent and Lent bring the urgency of preparation even closer to the forefront. After all, the worst disaster imaginable is the loss of Eternal life in Heaven. The ultimate expected Guest is Jesus and the most harmful contamination is the stain of sin on our souls.