Advent is a perfect time to clean and prepare your heart for Christmas. I’ve heard it said that Advent is a winter training camp for those who desire peace. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place.
The way I have chosen in preparing for this Way is by greatly limiting my use of media. The television at home is off, save for the occasional Christmas cartoon (The Grinch or Charlie Brown, etc.) or a movie with the family. By way of the internet I limit my intake of news and social media, but haven’t completely cut it off. It’s not like I’m oblivious to the world as the news of the day does still get through a little. But in smaller, less hysterical doses. I have stepped back from the chasm and I am filling it and my time with family, reading, and prayer. And writing, too, of course. That seems to come so much easier when the distractions are so limited. Peace of mind comes easier, too. To you I would offer the same road. I’d also suggest making a daily Advent examination.
Last week I was feeling very weighed down by the news of the day. Things seem on a collision course for ruin and it is very easy and even tempting to fall into the trap of despair. I found myself wondering how it will all end. Not just for me, but for my children or my grandchildren. Is any of this worth it? I was sinking fast and furiously bailing water.
My answer came that night while watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. At least once a year I will watch the extended versions of all three movies on DVD (taking a good 13 hours or so) or read the books. This year it’s the movies and within the first one Tolkien gave me my answer through Gandalf’s response to Frodo’s lament.
“I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened.”
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not up to them to decide. All we can do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”
Edward Hays, writing in A Pilgrim’s Almanac, suggested we do the following:
Ask yourself: are there any feelings of discrimination toward race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts.
I’m deciding to recharge my batteries this Advent. Part of my exercise in this training camp involves examining my life and reactions to others, how I perceive their actions towards me, and bringing peace to my soul. I pray that in some small way I’m helping others to do the same.