My column from this weekend’s parish bulletin:

Mary did you knowThough we have two weeks before Advent, I finally find myself preparing ahead of time for this season.  I haven’t always been good at that.  I often find myself, by about the second Sunday of Advent, wondering why I bother to try.  I’m buried by long Christmas gift lists and a weariness that takes the sparkle out of the preparation.

Maybe this will be the year that I start to like Christmas.  I’ve learned, since becoming Catholic, that the weeks before Christmas are NOT the Christmas season.  They are, instead, a time of penance and preparation for the joyous season, the Birth of our Savior.

How can we prepare for this?  I offer a few suggestions this week, some of which you might not be able to put into action.  I’m still sharing them, though, in the hopes that, like me, you can begin to think ahead for next year (or the year beyond).

First, do your shopping (or at least plan what you’re buying) before Advent begins.  As the master procrastinator and someone with a loathing for all shopping, I don’t suggest this lightly.  I know it’s not easy.  But I can’t wait to sit in the silence of Advent knowing that the large list of gifts is already purchased.

Second, plan a special observance during Advent.  Maybe you’re going to pray a special prayer during the season.  Maybe you’ll refrain from eating a favorite food.

Third, don’t forget to observe the special graces of the season by going to confession.  I always put off going to confession, but I always find myself so renewed when I finally do it.  Will you join me in the line to receive forgiveness straight from Jesus’ mouth?

Advent is not the same as Christmas.  That’s the beauty of it.  May you also discover the blessings of this season this year!