It is a tough time of the year in terms of having too much to get done in a very little time frame. In addition to the responsibilities of daily life, there are also the seasonal demands of preparing for Christmas. It seems that the celebration has evolved into much more than just sitting around and waiting. In fact, it can become quite overwhelming trying to juggle shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping, mailing, donating, finishing or preparing for exams, working, partying, catching up with friends and family, and participating in religious services and holy days of obligation. Thank goodness most of us modern people don’t have to kill and pluck the Christmas goose, but every year tasks seem more and more demanding. One might wonder if the earth is truly rotating faster. The reality is that it might be my own head that is spinning. With all of these tasks at hand, it can seem next to impossible to maintain a prayerful attitude and to focus on the “real reason for the season.” In fact, in many ways all of this busy-ness seems downright counter-intuitive. Here are a few suggestions on how to get it all done and survive.
First of all determine whether getting it all done is even necessary in the first place. What is essential and what is unnecessary activity? Some of us might set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Is it really important to get those 200+ hand-signed Christmas cards out before December 25? I do have to say that I have enjoyed reading those greetings that have arrived a few days and even weeks later. In fact, in the tradition of the Catholic Church Christmas season doesn’t start until Christmas Day. The days leading up to December 25th are actually Advent. Traditionally the season ends 40 days later with the Feast of the Presentation which is in February!
On Planning Ahead
Does knowing that Christmas doesn’t really begin until December 25th now spoil any of your efforts to plan ahead? It is true that the retail stores can have us out and about shopping for Christmas on Halloween. The office Christmas party might be in November. Teachers will need gifts before the end of the school term. And we desire to have something substantial and special to munch on for Christmas Day. So there is a certain amount of valid frantic activity and less excuse for procrastination. Some things are necessary. Even the Blessed Virgin Mary traveled to the hill country in haste (NAB, Luke 1:39) to visit Elizabeth. This leads to the next point.
Anticipate Changes in Plans
Be flexible. Even the best formulated plans can be slammed with an unanticipated interruption. A surprise blizzard can make travel difficult and risky. People can get the flu. There could be a census and one gets called to Bethlehem. Having preconceived ideas about how one’s celebrations “should be” sets oneself up for disappointment. Be careful when thinking in terms that contain “but we always…or “what it should be like”. Accept the situation for what it is even if a party means just you and the cat this year. Turn change into an opportunity. This leads to the next point.
Know When to Reach out to Others
Instead of trying to take on the whole Christmas season by oneself, know when and what responsibilities can be delegated to others. Share cooking parts of a meal. Do not make dozens of cookies if you plan on eating them all by yourself. Ask someone to do a favor and return a favor. Volunteer. Remember those who cannot get out and are home bound. The liturgical season is not meant to spend the entire time alone. Going to services not only gets one out of the house, but also gives one the opportunity to participate in the celebration of this Holy Season. Remember that the word Christmas is made up of both Christ and Mass. The highest and foremost is that one can pray and give thanksgiving for this past year and the future. This leads to another point.
Take Time to Smell the Roses
Even if there are no roses, find some. Do whatever it takes for you stop in the midst of your busy-ness to meditate, contemplate, and to find focus. Being able to take time out of the day to pray and being mindful of God can help gain a clearer perspective on your situation. This may mean simplifying. It is as basic as remembering that God loves you. Today’s (December 21) Psalm states:
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust. (NAB, Ps. 33:20-21).
After all we are now in the Season of Advent and we are waiting for God. Or is God waiting for you? The final point is:
Practice What You Preach.
Actually I have been so busy that it has taken me until now to write this blog! And if no one reads this — then I am truly writing to myself!
God bless you all and take it easy!