November 30, 2014
First Sunday of Advent
Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to man. … The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.… It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.
— Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger), b. 1927
Holidailies doesn’t begin officially until tomorrow, but I’m using the logo today. I had this piece in draft for ten days, titled “Advent Starts Here.” Two weeks ago I got out all of my Christmas paraphernalia — the journals and the prayer guides and the scrapbook materials, the lists and the newspaper clippings and the slick magazines full of food porn. I had to decide how I was going to approach the Fa-La-La, given my fragile mood.
Lynn is on her own now, so Christmas isn’t about finding just the right mix of Jingle Bells and Jesus, nor about balancing getting and giving. It’s about hope and change, gratitude and grace. It’s about moving forward. I had to think hard about what things — call them traditions, or maybe trappings — I have always done, or wanted to do, were essential.
I set up our Advent wreath and had my C&C in the light of its single First Sunday candle. I brought the crèche up from the basement, ready to go in its traditional place on the hall table. The meditation in The Upper Room, about a pastor using props in a children’s sermon, brought to mind a similar lesson given in a weekly youth group Lynn attended when she was in early elementary school. The pastor had been one of my students. I haven’t seen him in about twenty years. It took only one click from a Google search on his name to find his current situation. I’ll write to him this week.
The Angel Giving Tree at my church went up several weeks ago, about the time I was wondering just how I was going to manage the Ho-Ho-Holidays. That was one of my favorite activities with Lynn — finding something for a girl like her and a family like ours, thinking about who might be receiving what we chose, keeping them in our thoughts and prayers. This year I chose “watercolor art supplies for a 17-year-old male” and “perfume and body wash for a 16-year-old female.”
Last week I made an event out of shopping for the items. I got a large watercolor outfit — tubes of pigment, paper, brushes, a mixing dish, a palette — for $20, marked down from $50. Choosing the smell-good stuff was trickier. What scents do young women wear? Isn’t that a fairly personal preference? At a drugstore I found kits in light, airy varieties of citrus and berries. I bought two at $4.99 each.
I took them along to church this morning. I worried for a moment that I was favoring one child over another, even though these two individuals certainly don’t live together or even know each other. Many of the requests that our social ministry projects serve come from group homes or foster care agencies. There might not even be an actual 17-year-old male who has expressed to his caseworker a wish for art supplies, nor a specific girl who just wants to smell pretty this year.
Nevertheless, before I left for church, I slipped into the smaller bag a box of four miniature bottles of the Clinique line of Happy perfumes. It was in Lynn’s bathroom, unopened. It’s the scent she wears. I think I got this for her last year, maybe a purchase-with-purchase deal, and forgot it. Lynn certainly won’t mind its going to someone else. I think I was pretty successful in inculcating that giving over getting attitude in her.
My heart’s memory is awakened, and I’ve thrown open the doors of hope.