Every year, I admit to being an Advent dropout.
And every year, I have to remember a key point about Advent: it's not about me.
It's four weeks during some of the busiest time of the year. It's busy with work (no matter what work it is I do!), it's busy with family (no matter how much I plan for it!), and it's busy in general (no matter how I work ahead!).
Writing a book for your family's use at Advent does NOT make me an expert. In fact, don't tell anyone, but I haven't yet been able to use my own book with my own family. (Maybe next year.)
But it's not about me, right? Doesn't that mean it's not about what devotion we do (or don't do). It's not about how decorated (or non-decorated) our house is. It isn't about whether x, y, and z are done with a bow on top.
That means that as long as I keep my focus on Jesus, I can't go wrong, right?
Well, something like that.
It means, for me, that I have to embrace the spirit of penance, because I need that preparation. A King is coming, again, and I want to be ready.
And I never, NEVER, am.
Some years, I embrace that spirit of penance by fasting in some small way. ("But you don't HAVE to!" my husband always reminds me. And he's right. But…yes, yes, I do. But YOU may not have to.)
Other years, I embrace that spirit of penance by focusing on service to others in a special way. The people I particularly try to remember are those I seem to most easily forget: the people within my own home.
In fact, Advent isn't such a bad time for me to revisit my evangelizing efforts. Even as the manger is still is empty and the candles not all lit, my witness lacks quite a bit.
Do I look my five-year-old in the eye when she asks me a question? Do I pause to hug my mancub toddler as I pull him off whatever high object he's climbed on? Do I respond to my seven-year-old when she shares her latest insight on life?
Have I made time for my husband? When's the last time I made a phone call to someone and really talked to them, without a glowing screen anywhere nearby? For that matter, how about eating lunch slowly and enjoying it?
Advent can be a time of great growth for me, if I let it. And as I get closer to Jesus, day by day, I can't help but remember that I may be the only Jesus these people in my home see today. Am I showing them how to greet him, how to embrace him, how to be him?
Sarah Reinhard blogs at SnoringScholar.com and is the author of a number of books for families, including Welcome Baby Jesus: Advent and Christmas Reflections for Families and A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism.