Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Grace of Christmas

In preparation for Advent, and as a means of strengthening my reserves for the ongoing saga of raising 9 and being in the eighth month of pregnancy, this past week I went to confession.  It was in part because I felt deflated, as if Christmas somehow would not happen.  We hadn't shopped. There were three gifts in the closet and one of them was very small and another, a group present.  We hadn't taken a group photo.  We'd barely set up the tree and no cookies had been baked and no cards sent and I didn't know where I'd find the time or the energy or the right spirit to make these things happen while simultaneously keeping the children on track for their various evening activities, school work and exams.  I know these are things, but they were also still looming as things that should somehow get done.  

The word "Can't" was creeping into my thoughts; a word I consider a spirit killer because it usually doesn't mean something is impossible, merely that I am unwilling. Can't often means "Won't" and is the rationalization if not for sloth, for indifference to detail that would if done, reveal love.  Can't for me is a withdraw from the world and not in a healthy way, can't is not wanting to do, not wanting to care, not wanting to prepare.  The ten foolish virgins could have bought oil prior to the wedding feast; they didn't because they either didn't care to, or didn't think they might need it.  They didn't want to exert themselves for others even on the special occasion of a wedding feast. 

As an added bonus, I am currently reading Peter Kreeft's Catholic Christianity, in which there was a line that resonated with me with this same battle over the word "Can't," where he discussed the radical notion in Catholicism that each of us has within us the capacity to accept grace in perpetuity such that we could through obedience, live a life without sin. The saints have shown that it can be done albeit with great suffering and difficulty and sublimation.   And it struck me that most of my own sins were sins of "won't," that I claimed were situations of "can't"  because I was tired or it had been a long day or the kids were quarreling and I got mad or the mess was too much and I didn't WANT to serve.  "Can't" and "Won't" were excuses designed to exonerate me from examining what I had done and what I had failed to do; to keep me continuing in the same patterns, the same behaviors without questioning whether they revealed love or something else.

So today, we decorated the tree and Christmas felt a little warmer and a little closer.   Today is the beginning of the third week of Advent, we light the pink candle to remind us of the coming joy.   The shopping still looms and the lists and the programs and the schedule and the daily chores but Christmas is coming and now, the panic that came with that list before when it was further away, both temporarily and as a result of sin, has been lifted.  These things will happen and it will work and what strikes me funny is now, the present seems sufficient, and the future that is Christmas?  I almost can't wait. 


Marisa said...


I too share your frustration. Here we are, trying to prepare for Christ's birth, and our lists seem to keep getting in our way. Even if we simplify things, the lists are still there - and they almost seem to mock you. So I have added to following prayer to the top of every list I create. "Lord, this list is completely overwhelming me. Please give me the grace to complete all of the items on this list in a timely fashion. Or if that is not possible, allow me complete all the items on this list which are most aligned with Your Holy Will."

As for shopping, that's easy. Amazon is the way to go. Have the packages delivered to a trustworthy friend's house, preferably one with a teenager. Then pay said teen $20 to wrap said presents. Pick them up Dec. 24 after kids are in bed and throw under the tree. Less stress for you and teen is happy with extra $20. One more item crossed off your list.

SherryTex said...

Genius! I will take tips from the master.

Debby L. said...

Wow! A really great idea, Marisa! I wish I had thought to do that when we lived next door to you guys, Sherry!

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!