An Advent Redeemed


Mary Schaad // Tales From the Trenches

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December 19  

“December 25th feels more like a deadline than a holiday.” A friend of mine spoke these words to me a few days ago, and there are times that it feels true. If the classic Christmas checklist is not completed by this date, then our children risk not having a magical holiday, and their childhood will be ruined. Our neighbors will look down on us because we did not hang lights on the house, or our in-laws will ask why we did not cook the potatoes a certain way (although, thankfully, I do not have this problem). At our talk at church about Advent, the speaker reminded us that it is not about how much we do, but how we do what we commit to.

I think Catholic mothers might have an even more difficult time of this than others. When the Advent season begins, our inboxes begin to overflow with devotions and ideas for our children and families to grow in holiness during the Advent season. All of them sound so good that I begin to think, “If I don’t do all of these, then my children will not understand the true meaning of Christmas, and they will be ruined forever. We must attend every event, or we will not have a magical time. If the kids do not have matching pajamas on Christmas morning, then what will I post to Instagram?”

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to subscribe to every devotional and to put every event on the calendar only to end up feeling like a failure two weeks into Advent when we’re five days behind on readings, and one kid has the stomach flu so we’ve already missed two events. Going to see the Christmas lights just may not happen. There are no cute pictures on my newsfeed while everyone else’s kids are in matching PJ’s, smiling and drinking hot cocoa next to a beautiful tree. My tree is not up yet, and hot cocoa would not sit well on the tummies around my house.

I have begun to realize that I have set myself up for failure by trying to do too much and by putting on all those expectations. We all know that the devil is very crafty, and that he can disguise his work in good things, such as trying to keep us busy doing “holy” things—so busy that we do not have time to sit still and really think about the true meaning of Christmas. The devil can then bring us down by making us feel like failures when we cannot keep up with our plans for preparation.

I’m sure that Jesus does not want the joy of his birth to be surrounded by stress but rather by peace. This peace can be found only in him and when we take time to be quiet and still with him. As I put everything else aside to do this, I realize that only one thing matters—to do what I do this Advent season out of love. Maybe another year I will get to do the lavish preparations that would seem so meaningful to me, but for now, this is enough—to bring ginger ale and crackers and cuddle with my kids; to read books to all the children about the coming celebration; and to light a few extra candles around the house.

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