Sharing the Season

Renee invites all of us to share the ways in which we are preparing for Christmas, focusing specifically on what does not involve shopping. I thought this was a worthwhile topic, especially taking time to consider the non-shopping part of it. This is quite a bit longer than my usual posts!
For Orthodox Christians, Advent (Nov 15 – Dec 24) is a period of spiritual preparation before we celebrate the birth of Christ. This can involve many things, such as fasting (not eating meat and/or dairy; by learning to control what we eat, hopefully we are also learning to control our anger, gossip, jealousy, etc.), cutting down on our television time, spiritual examination and meeting with our priest to talk about things we’re struggling with (ie, confession, which I’ve ironically found to be quite healing and liberating in spite of my resistance to the idea before we chose to join the church), sharing our resources with those in need, and increased prayer. I’m far from perfect in any of these areas, but they do lend a peace and quiet to the season which is so often needed, as well as help us focus on the source of the holiday.

This year we are making a point to take in a few local Christmas concerts, which is something my family often did. I miss this habit and am looking forward to it.

I quite adore Christmas music and play it often: Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Wintersong, A South Dakota Acoustic Christmas, and others. I need to find some Orthodox Christmas recordings!

I’d also been hoping for a chance to volunteer at a local shelter this season and we had that opportunity last weekend, stacking donated cans of food in the pantry at a women and children’s emergency shelter. Nothing makes you realize how many blessings you have as coming face to face with those in desperate need. I share this in order to encourage you to consider donating or helping out at a local shelter or food bank this season.

Eventually we will get around to decorating. My husband gets quite excited about putting up a tree. As children, our family always bought tree permits and went out into the forest to chop down our own tree. That was a delightful tradition.

We try to take an evening to drive around and admire Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

And yes, I quite enjoy making as many handmade gifts as I can, so I hope to begin on that soon. I also like sending out cards, so that is also on the list. All our gifts are shipped out, so I’ll also be making an epic journey to the post office…

Finally, we celebrate with a midnight service on Christmas Eve, followed by a massive potluck with our church family. We’ll spend lots of time on the phone with our family that day, and will spend the next week cleaning the house for my in-law’s visit at New Year’s. It is a joyful time of year!

How are you preparing for Christmas?


Simply Victoria said...

what a neat tradition!
I tell myself every year that I will put in some volunteer hours at a local food bank/soup kitchen... but have never found the time.
hopefully this year will be different.

renee said...

wow, what a wonderful way to celebrate and observe the season of Advent - all of it.

Thank you so much for participating, it means a lot to me. I find it interesting that you also have a church family but no family close by (or maybe I read that wrong). We don't live near any family, closest is 12 hours away but we definitely have a church family. Though we are on the other end of orthodox - fellowshiping in homes with believers and don't attend any "church building" *smile*.

Your plans sound meaningful and thoughtful. Thanks also for sharing your favorite Christmas music. I'd like to buy another album this year but had no idea where to to start.

Just tonight we met with a group of people to discuss how we can share the season, specifically observe Advent, with folks in our poor downtown neighborhoods. I'm so excited with what we came away with from that meeting, I can't wait to blog about it!

Thanks again for sharing. I'm truly inspired and feel a connection - cool.

Donna said...

Very inspiring....what a great way to start preparing for the season.

Marfa said...

Today I'm going to start making cards...I like saying "Merry Christmas," but find that "Christ is born!" is more appropriate, because this addresses the reason we are celebrating!

We avoided the crowds yesterday and stayed home, except to meet up with the local farmer...we're still going to get raw milk, and I'll just make it into cheese and keep it for the Nativity!

elizabeth said...

i am reminded why i am so glad God gave me the Orthodox church! :) Entering Advent quietly and seeking to prepare is wonderful....

this year Christmas feels in one way far away - having just moved i am distracted - but - i feel like i have just been given a home where i can actually prepare for Christmas...

and a kitchen i actually want to use!

enjoyed your post here! not that this is suprising... :)

MaryAnn Ashley said...

I had no idea about Advent... really cool stuff! I think handmade gifts are the best!

::Sylvia:: said...

How beautiful. We usually collect gifts and deliver them to a child abuse shelter nearby our home, that is always my favorite part of the season.

We also have a tradition were 20 women read a different kathisma from the Psalter each day. Between all of us the entire Psalter is read each day and we read through it twice individually.
As far as music, I enjoy the classic Christmas music and I love Mannheim Steamrollers :)