Father Charles Ravert

(Lea la columna del Padre Ravert en español.)

Pax et Bonum+ Paz y todo lo bueno

The most wonderful time of the year, Christmas, is on its way! Children all around the world are counting the days until Santa arrives with a sleigh full of their wishes. But for us grown-ups we have more to do than just wait for Christmas morning. We have to work, clean the house, shop for gifts, and then attempt to wrap them. We have decorations to put up and trees to trim and cookies to bake. Even though Santa gets all the credit, it’s us, the grown-ups who make Christmas magical for our children.

As wonderful as it is, preparing for Christmas has its pressures. There never seems to be enough time to do everything we need to do to get ready for the big day. So, what is to be done? Are we condemned to stress and panic as we count down the days to December 25? Well, on the one hand, yes. Human nature being flawed will cause us to procrastinate, seek perfectionism, and waste money at least a little bit during the holiday season. But, on the other hand, we are not doomed to be crushed under Santa’s commercialized boots! We just have to remember one important fact: The stuff that stresses us out the most at Christmas time is not actually essential to Christmas itself!

The Advent Season is a time of spiritual preparation for the Christ’s birth but it also looks forward to anticipate his second coming in judgment on the last day. So, let’s take an Advent approach to our holiday preparations.

We know that when Christ judges, he will judge based on how we have kept his commandments to love God above all things and to love one another as he has loved us. With this in mind we can tackle our holiday preparations this Christmas with more spiritual insight which will help us make more prudent decisions, be a more spiritually enriching experience, and help us grow in our love of God and others.

For instance, write a list of all the people you want to buy presents for this year. Next write a list of all the house preparations you want to complete, everything from decorating the tree to cleaning the bathroom. Now pick which list is more stressful for you to think about. For me it’s always the shopping list which is most stressful.

Take that list to church with you this weekend. This is the perfect time to pray about everything on that list. I recommend asking God and yourself two questions about each item on the list: first, “Will this item bring someone joy?” and second, “Will doing this task bring me joy?”

After some time of reflection, hopefully you’ll know which tasks or items or gifts will be the most joyful for others and yourself.

Any items on the list that you think will not bring joy to others or yourself you can ignore or maybe choose to do them last.

This exercise is a type of spiritual journaling that can be especially helpful when we are feeling overwhelmed and losing sight of God’s presence in our lives.

Christmas is about Christ and the joy he brings and joy we bring others by obeying his command to love one another.

If we focus on the things that help us bring that joy to the world we’ll not only have less holiday stress we’ll also be helping ourselves draw closer to Messiah we await!


Father Charles Ravert serves as pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Philadelphia.