by Father Mark Goldasich
Well, it’s time for Preparation-H.
Whoops! Perhaps I’d better explain myself a bit. The other day I was making a file folder for Advent and the various projects that I hoped to get to before Christmas. As I was filling out the tab on the folder, I was distracted and didn’t pay sufficient attention to how much room I needed to write down “Preparation- Holidays.”
Soon I found myself at the end of the file folder’s tab and staring at the words “Preparation-H.” At that point, I just put down my Sharpie and treated myself to a good laugh.
Sometimes, quite by accident, a much-needed life lesson comes at you out of the blue.
My dirty little secret is that I don’t do Advent well. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I love the season, I understand its purpose, and I have the best of intentions for it. But my goal-setting and follow-through always end up severely lacking. Basically, my problem is that I want to do too many good things, in too short a time, at one of the busiest times of year. My dreams for the season turn out to be mostly impossible ones.
Starting that file folder was my first Advent step this year. Although it was a good idea, I guess I still needed a shot of realism.
Not having enough room to write “Preparation-Holidays” on the little tab turned out to be the perfect lesson. It reminded me, quite vividly, that I blindly rush into this season and frequently don’t leave room for the most important things.
I have plenty of good intentions and ideas, but don’t spend time realistically pondering them . . . or my schedule. That means I tend to reach Christmas with a sense of sadness at all I’ve left undone.
This year I’m committed to making things different. The key is that one word: preparation. In this buffer week before Advent starts, I’m determining what I can realistically accomplish in these days. I’m sitting down with a a blank calendar page devoted to Advent. I’m writing in, first and foremost, all the commitments I already have for this season. That should give me a clear idea of how much time I actually have left to accomplish other important Advent items.
One of those certainly is getting in touch with people who are important to me by writing Christmas cards. I don’t find it a chore or a burdensome experience. Generally, I find it relaxing …at least the first week or so of Advent.
Then, typically, I get busy with penance services, the Immaculate Conception holy day, Christmas programs, gift buying and wrapping, and so on. The result is a whole slew of wonderful people get left “ungreeted.”
One year I tried writing my cards all through the Christmas season, but my heart wasn’t in it. For me, the cards have to go out before Christmas Day.
So, this year I’m refining my preparation. Instead of just dividing up the number of cards I want to send by the number of days in Advent, I’m actually taking into account the fact that I have much more energy, time, and enthusiasm in the early days of the season than in the later days.
Therefore, it makes sense to write the majority of Christmas cards early on, rather than cramming them in as the season and its demands increase.
Secondly, I’m starting my Christmas cards with the people I missed last year. Because I dutifully (and with great guilt) kept their Christmas cards to me from last year, that pile is the one I’ll begin with this time around.
And, for those people who live out of town or those with whom I have a lot of catching up to do, I’m forgoing their Christmas card altogether. I’m going to pick up the phone instead. I suspect it will be more of a treat to reconnect by voice rather than only in writing.
I invite you to take a little bit of quiet time before the official beginning of Advent to prepare for it. Write down what is most important, what makes these days special for you. Then pull out your calendar immediately and schedule in these items before other tasks creep in and steal away these special days.
I’m hoping my “Preparation-H” will ease some of the painful aspects of this season and help to leave plenty of room for what matters the most: spending time with those I love and with those who love me, especially Christ the Lord.