Ending and Beginning the Liturgical Year Without Regrets

nov-dec-calendarThat time of year is about to be upon us — the stretch between Halloween and New Year’s that contains a lot of busyness in our society. Right in the middle of this busy time the liturgical Church year comes to an end, and the season of Advent begins a new one. It’s a season with a lot of holidays and feast days, and sometimes (more often than we may want to admit) we come to the end of it exhausted and full of regrets about being so busy and rushed and not having had the time to reflect and prepare ourselves for the Christmas season (which extends at least 3 weeks past Christmas day!).

How can things be different this year? How do we walk through this time of year and these Church seasons with restful and joyful hearts? I have a few thoughts.

Be Intentional

We certainly won’t thrive during this period without some planning. You don’t have to be a super-planner with color coded charts. You just have to have a basic plan for what is important for your family. What are the important days on the liturgical calendar that you want to make sure that your family observes this November and December? How is it going to be meaningful for your family to celebrate them? Keep in mind that your family is not the family down the street or other friends. Look at what this means for your unique family. Discuss these questions with your spouse, and come to a unified decision about how your family will meaningfully celebrate the upcoming feast days, Advent and Christmas. Make a plan, and then…

Make Room & Remove Distractions

To say “yes” to what is important, we must say “no” to things that are less important. During this busy time of year, and especially during this Advent, make it a point to avoid all events that detract or distract from the liturgical season or feast day. And a word about Sundays…clear them. That doesn’t mean that we don’t do anything on Sundays, but it does mean that they should certainly not be frantic days filled with tasks and busyness. If we can’t get into the habit of keeping the Sabbath, then we probably aren’t going to be very successful in observing other liturgical seasons. Advent, especially, requires a quiet and reflective atmosphere in our hearts, homes, and lifestyle. Make the choice to eliminate those activities that break down that quiet and reflective atmosphere.

Keep It Simple — Go Deep, Not Wide

Finally, keep celebrations simple and meaningful. Again, my “simple” may not be your simple; your gifts may not be my gifts. Find your simple, and be authentic to your family culture. We sometimes try to celebrate every feast day with too many preparations and uphold dozens of traditions, and then we get to the end of December and we don’t really come away with beautiful memories, just blurry snippets of festivities and the physical signs of exhaustion that must mean we were busy doing something. In discerning how to best spend your personal and family time and energy, focus on going deep, not wide. The whole point is not that we celebrated every feast day; the point is that we got closer to Christ during this season and that he saturates our hearts and our homes.

Being intentional about how we spend these upcoming days and weeks is probably going to be counter-cultural at times. There are constant messages to us to be busy, be entertained, spend money, and move from one thing right to the next. Our Church in her wisdom has given us a rhythm for the year, for our lives. If we live by it, and don’t get distracted by secular rhythms, we will encounter Christ; and we will experience peace and joy during these full and beautiful seasons.