This time of year is the busiest. Gifts to buy, parities to attend, food to make, and that is in addi­tion to work, school and kids. For many people this is also the saddest time of the year. Could the two be remotely related, I’m not sure, but I do know that on our continent, creation has taken its cues from the earth and is slowing down. During Advent the first signs of winter come. The trees are brown, animals are hibernating, and the sun sets earlier. There is more dark than light. Dark gives the signal to our bodies- slow down, reflect, and savor. It never makes sense to go against God’s already established rhythm.

Advent is waiting time, where the air is literally pregnant with the presence of God. Like all pregnancies, too much stress and strain is not good for growing. So slow down, make the space each day to watch and wait as your family grows with Mary’s belly, ripe with the Christ child. I encourage you to change gears this year. Get off the holiday treadmill, and savor these quiet moments of Advent. Say “No, thanks,” to a few invitations and responsibilities, “I’ve got a baby to wait for.”

Sometimes I forget that. Advent is preparation, it’s remembering; remembering that Royal blue is for a Royal King. With all the distraction that is modern life, plus the added distraction of the Holiday Season, we need ways to remember.

During Advent we often use Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, nativity sets, to help us remember. My father is of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fit it” mind set and he would say if you have tools that work- Keep them! This time I agree with dear old Dad.  But we should make sure our tried and true tools are in working order. Does this tool help us to remember, or does it distract? Does this tool draw us into the peace of Christ, or push us into the vicious cycle of consumerism? Are we too busy to listen? Are we too harried to relish our relationship both with God and with others?

After checking the workability of your tools, you may decide the old tools are not working and you need a few new ones. Well, how about these?

Fasting: Fasting during the Holiday Season? Yes! Fasting has been used as a tool for thousands of years to help us listen. By turning off other things we open our hearts and minds to God who longs to whisper his great love to those who will listen. There are many ways and many things that we can fast to prepare for the Royal Baby.

  • This time of year strikes fear in the minds of all parents who have the foresight to realize all the sugar their children are about to ingest. As a family save all sweets for Sunday. Sundays are traditionally celebration days, even during a time of fasting. Every Sunday we celebrate the resurrection- and what better way to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” than by saving the sweets for Sunday.
  • Fast from media, when all family members are together, evenings are usually the best time for most families.  Spend some time reading the Bible and praying together.
  • Two Saturdays during Advent eat rice or beans only. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Discuss what it must be like to have this every day. Decide as a family on a charity you would like to work with during the Holidays.
  • Give up your gifts. Fast giving gifts to each other this year. Instead use the money to buy gifts for a family who has very little.  Plan a covert operation to drop off the gifts without being caught. Spend all four weeks of Advent planning your covert Christmas.
  • Alleluia List: this time of year if full of lists. Christmas Gift Lists, Grocery Lists, Things to Do Lists—even Santa’s makin’ a list, and I’m told he’s checking it twice. This year make a new list. The most effective way of teaching our children about the goodness of God is by counting our blessings. Augustine said to be an “Alleluia from head to toe.” Beginning this week, start an Alleluia list. Take newsprint or long butcher paper, every evening before go­ing to bed invite all members of the family to rattle off things that they are thankful for, make a long list. The only rule is that nothing can be listed twice. Hang the list where it can be scene and added to nightly.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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