It’s that time of year again. My favorite blogs are featuring posts titled “Easy Holiday Makeup Looks” or “Gifts for Your Best Friend Who Knows Your Emotional Temperature By The Way You Punctuate Your Texts.” My Pinterest account is full of Christmas Banana Bread recipes in the hopes that I’ll finally address the growing pile of over-ripe bananas in my freezer. And my Facebook feed is filled with great ideas on how to bring the faith alive to my children this Advent.
And although I love the creative gift guides, the festive recipes, and the enthusiastic Advent suggestions, a part of me already feels… overwhelmed.
With five children all at the age of constant sports, lessons and activities, our family’s daily schedule is already a logistical nightmare. The thought of adding to our already-packed days the extra celebrations, concerts, and get-togethers that accompany the holiday season does not evoke the quiet stillness with which I long to approach Advent.
Truth be told, every year I have an Advent epiphany, and by “epiphany”, I mean a major mental breakdown (that may or may not end with me in tears). After every such episode (which my kids have started calling my Annual Advent Meltdown), I make a real, concrete, sometimes radical but always easily executable adjustment to my usual December routine. If you’re looking for awesome but super-involved and labor-intensive resources to enrich your Advent season, you’ve come to the wrong place. But if you’re looking for easy but challenging ideas to make more space in the weeks leading up to Christmas, read on.
Week 1: No-Flyer Zone
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mt 6:21
I have a friend who radiates peace. The way she acts and speaks exudes a supernatural calm in the midst of what I know to be a sometimes chaotic life. When I, a frenzied mom of many children, stepped into her house one December many years ago, I felt suddenly the spiritual stillness that I was longing would govern my own Advent experience. She had no fewer children than I did (in fact, she had more), and yet somehow she managed to be far more successful than me at creating calm in her busy home. “The pre-Christmas season feels so crazy to me,” I complained to her. “How do you seem so relaxed?”
Her answer surprised me. “The first thing we do is remove flyers from our home.” On the first day of Advent, her family immediately tosses all the circulars, catalogs and coupons advertising the newest technology, the latest fashions, the best gifts, and this year’s “must-have” toys. We’ve done this in our own home ever since.
Making our home a no-flyer zone for the entire season of Advent – and the physical act of throwing advertisements into the recycle bin before they’re even allowed to enter our home – is an easy and tangible way to turn our thoughts from the material (what we need to buy, what we hope to get) and towards our true Treasure.
“Just what is conversion?” asks Pedro Arrupe, former Superior General of the Society of Jesus. The answer? “It is getting rid of something so that something else can take its place…. It is the putting away of something that we are: our old self, with its all-too-human, all too-worldly prejudices, convictions, attitudes, values, ways of thinking and acting; habits which have become so much a part of us that it is agony even to think of parting with them, and yet which are precisely what prevent us from… seeing life steadily and seeing it whole.”
Clearing our home of the advertisements and catalogs is one small and simple way we cleanse our hearts of the desire to consume this Christmas, and take one tiny step closer to the poverty of Nazareth.