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Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2017

How shall we observe the blessed season of Advent this year? I feel the need to be careful not to suggest any addition to your long and busy to-do list this time of year. Instead, I would like to encourage you to do less of some things.

Many people I talk to, myself included, feel distressed about events happening in our world, and about events happening in our beloved country. Often we don’t have the time or inclination to process things like mass shootings, natural disasters, or misconduct of our elected leaders. As a result, we may walk around in a state of malaise, melancholy, or irritation and not even know why we feel this way.

Recently someone suggested these simple steps for dealing with this distress; and I think they are good steps for Advent as well.

1. Focus on what you can control.
I can control what I do with my time and money. If something bad is happening, I do not need to watch this on the news or social media over and over again inundating my brain with these images. For example, when the Seahawks or your favorite sports team wins, you may enjoy watching the highlights of the game again on the evening news, but you probably don’t care to watch them again when they lose. Think about how differently you feel in each situation and consider how this affects you. In the same way, there are ways to stay informed about what is happening in our world; but it is not necessary to read about it in the paper, see it on Facebook, then read peoples comments on Twitter, and watch it again on television. You may consider fasting from Facebook or social media during the season of Advent as a spiritual discipline or change your settings so that you only see pictures your friends post of family gatherings.
Be intentional about how you spend your money so that your resources can be most effective. Choose one or two causes you really care about and give to this in a planned and deliberate way. Try not to be pulled this way and that, to donate to everyone and everything that asks for your money or time.

2. Be kind and be patient with others (See number 1)
Sometimes when we are distressed, we respond with childish behaviors like road rage or impatience with service providers. Choose to be kind. Greet the checkout clerk by name. (They are usually wearing a name tag.) Remember that their job is tiring and mind numbing. Talk to others when you are standing in line. Let someone in a hurry go ahead of you. Calm down. Most tasks are not as urgent as we make them to be. People are more important than tasks. Respect the dignity of every human being as we have promised in our Baptism.

The gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit are not accomplishments, busy-ness, self-importance or profit. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self control.

In all of this, in Advent we practice waiting. Waiting is difficult. When you notice that you are distressed or beginning to lose your sense of calm, say to yourself. “I am waiting on the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the coming of Christ into the world.”
Blessings to you and holy waiting.