Advent never goes as planned for us. Never. Not a single Advent. Not a one since we’ve started celebrating Advent.
That doesn’t stop me from planning again each year. Maybe there’s something about Christmas Carols, Christmas decor everywhere and the air almost electric with Christmas cheer that wipes the memory clean from all that occurred last year and makes it hard not to be newly optimistic.
Perhaps the jingling of bells and beautiful snow-covered landscape makes one think: “This year is going to be the year. This year, we’ll have a good and fruitful Advent.”
I can’t claim that life was going smooth at the end of November. As always, it was utter chaos so there wasn’t any unusual calmness that would help me fool myself.
I think my cockeyed optimism was a combination of two things. The first was that Advent is the start of the Catholic New Year. It gives one the feeling of a new start, a clean slate, things are going to be different.
The second was coming across a copy of Pope Benedict’s The Infancy Narratives. I’ve wanted to read it during Advent for many years and took it’s arrival into my life during November as a divine sign that that this was going to be a good pre-Christmas season.
Of course, I went into full blown stupified Advent shopping and ended up buying a child-friendly Advent readings book to do daily with the kids, an Advent journal for myself and a new Advent wreath since the kids had pulverized last year’s in what we refer to as ‘the Advent wreath massacre of 2018’.
I almost bought the John Henry Newman Advent reflections that everyone was recommending and raving about but I stopped myself. I didn’t want to get carried away, after all.
The first week of Advent went well. The first week always goes well. As if to lull one into a false sense of complacency that this year is finally the year.
We built a small, destructive-kid friendly Christmas tree out of two pieces of wood affixed to the wall in a tree-shaped triangle with some lights and garland zig-zagged back and forth between the two. It gave us a nice, two-dimensional tree that the children couldn’t knock down over and over as they had done last year which ended with us putting the tree outside the second week into December and having to tape all the ornaments to the window.
This year we kept up with our felt Jesse tree ornaments each day, which we just put on our Christmas tree since we can’t put up any of our Christmas tree ornaments in that most of them were breakable and, ipso facto, have been broken.
I stayed current with my daily journal, kept pace with the daily readings with the kids (not that they were real enthused) and flew through the Pope Benedict book.
In fact, the only hiccup was the Advent wreath candles. I remembered not to put them in the attic again where they tended to melt, but I probably should have because I forgot that one of the kids had broken them each in several places last year and perhaps the attic heat would have melted them back together. They looked horrible! I couldn’t believe I’d saved them. But it’s what we had so we made the best of it and all laughed at our funny looking candles that we lit each night while singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.
We were all on an ‘Advent is going so well’ high.
Then the demon virus from the sixth circle of hell entered into our house.
It is a well-known fact in Adventing circles that the amount of planning one puts into their Advent directly correlates with how horrible the disease will be that ruins all of the plans. That darn Pope Benedict book had made me forget this very important rule and I had planned the stuffing out of our Advent.
The demon virus took us out for two weeks. The worst of it lasted about two days for each kid and it took them out one at a time! (Anyone with a bigger family has found that it’s much easier to deal with a big sickness if everyone gets it all at once. You’ve got a tough couple of days but then it’s over.)
This demon virus dragged on and on and then one day, the smoke cleared, everyone was through it and it was only a week and a half until Christmas!
Still dealing with the after effects of the illness such as lingering coughs and runny noses, we did our best to try and catch up and capture some sense of Advent. We did a lightning round version of putting up Jesse Tree ornaments, I tried to catch up on my journal, we tried to remember to light the Advent candles every night, though we forgot a lot because we had to put the wreath out in the garage because our candle breaker hadn’t lost her fascination with breaking candles.
We gave up on the kid-friendly daily readings entirely.
I did manage to finish the Pope Benedict book but only because it was small. Pope Benedict is a wise man. Maybe he kept things brief to give us Advent-failers at least one win.
Now here we are two days before Christmas with a half-filled Advent journal, barely melted down Advent candles, a hastily hung Jesse tree, a messy house and a manger that’s missing Saint Joseph.
I’m not going to forget this next year.
Yes I will.