I'm going to admit something to you... It was not a great Advent over here.
We did our *stuff* - our Advent stuff, the reading of the books and the lighting of the candles, and the singing of O Come, O Come Emmanuel (including, near the end, a full candlelit "procession" and dance party done by the children every night after dinner).
But I spent most of that time of preparation, the time I needed to be preparing my heart for the birth of Christ, feeling extraordinarily frustrated and exhausted. And I think I've figured out why.
One of the really difficult things about observing the liturgical year and not the secular year is that our culture really jumps the gun on this whole Christmas thing. Thanksgiving ends and everyone pulls out their tree, lights go up, carols are sung, cookies are baked... The party begins loooong before the birthday arrives.
But over here we started slow - we pulled out the nativities (minus baby Jesus!), eventually put up lights, and finally got our tree put up and decorated on Christmas Eve. But I was feeling so antsy about everything the whole time - here was what seemed like everyone around me already celebrating, but my heart wasn't ready for that and I really wanted to be ready.
Not working this year means I wasn't spending September, October, and November preparing the Christmas & Winter-themed songs my choirs would be performing in December. And I think that's one thing that has actually gotten me more prepared for greeting our Savior come December 25. Trying to live such an austere life in the midst of merriment was depressing!
Add to that the fact that I felt like December is the time when everyone in the world becomes a kinder person, and Christmas cheer is all around, so shouldn't life feel perfect? But no, our December was filled with my husband's extra rehearsals, extra night meetings, and more solo bedtimes than I can count.
Jesus was about to be born, so shouldn't everything feel merry and bright?
I wasn't allowing myself the regular ups and downs of life, but only reflecting extremely negatively any time anything bad happened over here. Because nothing bad should happen, because BABY JESUS!!!
And then it occurred to me... Jesus wasn't exactly born into this world to bring us candy and presents and make us feel the warm fuzzies.
Nope. There's still that whole "died on a cross to save us from our sins" thing we have to remember. We cannot have a Christmas without the Cross.
So next year I'll come up with a better game plan. I don't know what it'll be, but the constant resentment that things weren't perfect was not good for my soul. After all, was everything perfect when our Savior was born in a dirty stable amongst smelly animals? And I'll try to keep reminding myself that Christmas isn't just about warm, cuddly Baby Jesus. We know how the story ends, and it's wonderful but also terrible. Lord, please help me remember.