November 2018: Keeping a Joyful Heart

Our daughter was married on Saturday, November 17, 2018. After 17 months of planning from the engagement, the day came and went. It was a wonderful day, but as people say, it goes by quickly, and the “day after” depression is a challenge. In our case, my wife and I both contracted congestion and laryngitis in addition to the emotional roller coaster coming to a quick stop.  
I thought about the experience in the context of the cycle of anticipation and waiting, then finally celebrating and enjoying, only to have fond memories for reflection afterwards. These cycles happen to us for lots of occasions, and the Church is about to enter into one in a few days.  
The Advent season is meant to be a time of anxious waiting and preparation for the celebration of Christmas. Too often, we get caught up in the social rituals of Christmas parties, gift shopping, and decorating, sometimes forgetting that the celebration is about to happen – it’s not happening yet. Unlike the day after a wedding, we celebrate Christmas more than just one day. We celebrate through the Feast of Epiphany, this year on Sunday, January 5. Keep the Christmas trees decorated, keep singing Christmas carols, and keep extending Christmas greetings to family and friends throughout the season!
For Advent, consider incorporating daily prayer and a brief moment of meditation, retreating from the excitement and hectic pace of Christmas preparations – all wonderful and well-intentioned, but somehow distracting from a season of preparation that should foster contemplation about ourselves and our relationships to God and to one another. Since the 8thcentury, the Catholic Church has been using the “O Antiphons,” as a way to recall God’s goodness to the Israelites recounted in the Old Testament, fulfilling his promise of sending a Messiah. We pray these in the often-sung Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” These antiphons accompany the “Magnificat” canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17 to December 23. Perhaps reflecting on one of these antiphons or a phrase or word from Mary’s canticle can provide us inspiration for meaningful reflection. For example, thinking about the first antiphon, we may ask ourselves how we use our knowledge to advance God’s love in the world and discern God’s presence in our lives.
Remembering that, “. . . He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name;” keeping Christ in Advent will make the celebration of Christ’s birth even more meaningful and lasting in our daily experiences. No “day after” depression, only joyful hearts!

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