But since becoming a Jesus Freak, Christmas has been way MORE of a challenge. I mean, here we are in Advent, a season of penitence, self reflection, meditation, and yes, I will say it, darkness. For those of us in the liturgical tradition, it isn't even proper to sing a Christmas carol until Christmas Eve. This is a time for preparing, not in the 'gotta get a tree and decorate it' sense, but in the far more spiritual sense. If Jesus came back TODAY, am I ready? The gospel readings have all been about being ready, spiritually, to meet our maker. These are strident John the Baptist readings. Get it together, people. Don't stand around waiting until it is too late. NOW is the time to repent and change your ways. John pulled no punches, then or now.
For me, this year has been a delicious Advent. I have spent time in deep reflection. I have been grappling and letting go. Jesus has been calling to me. Unlike his cousin John, his is not a strident voice, but a gentle one. He isn't demanding anything, but inviting me, ever so quietly, to trust him. Trust him. Which is, perhaps, the hardest thing any Christian can do.
I have been reading scripture. Like a thirst that only the word of God can quench. Every day I wake up and sit at my dining room table and start my day in the word. And it is delicious.
And I have been going to church. Lots of church. Weekdays and Saturdays and Sunday. Quiet, rhythmic, freezing cold, or bright and vibrant and filled with beautiful music. Sitting and letting the presence of Our Lord wash over me.
And I have been reading Teresa of Avila and a book about the Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Desert Fathers and St. Ignatius of Antioch and a whole bunch of other really amazing Christians. (The letters of Ignatius of Antioch were written while he was being taken to Rome to die in the Colosseum. Which makes me cry to think of it.)
And meditating on The Virgin.
And none of this helps me to prepare for the Big Day, which for us stretches from church on Christmas Eve until the last moment of collapse from exhaustion on Christmas night.
Because maybe the Big Day is actually already starting to happen in my heart.
Blessed Advent. You win.