Want a peaceful Advent? It's not about the to-do list, but rather our attitudes

Recently, I was feeling overwhelmed by my “to-do” list. How could I possibly accomplish all the things that needed to be done? In the midst of these thoughts, I realized that something in my perspective needed to change. After all, why was I doing all these things in the first place, except for the Lord?

Advent can be a rather frantic time of year. Despite my desires for a calm, beautiful, silent and peaceful Advent, every year Advent seems to be hectic instead. I used to be tempted to blame this on the materialism of our culture, but, as I still experience it in the convent with a vow of poverty, that cannot possibly be the only reason. 

All the busyness of Advent in the convent is filled with very good things we do for the Lord: more activities to celebrate the season with our students; making and delivering goodies to thank our benefactors; sending Christmas cards; preparing for our Sisters from around the country to join us; decorating nearly every nook and cranny in the convent for the celebration of the Lord’s birth. So why do all those very good things leave me feeling stressed and frenzied? Thinking about this, I realized that maybe what actually needs to change is not the circumstances I find myself in during Advent but instead my own perspective.

Do I see the things that I need to do just as items to check off a list? Do I get frustrated when things do not go exactly as I would plan them? Or, do I see my responsibilities as an opportunity to give of myself in love for the Lord who first loved me (cf. 1 John 4:19) and for His people? Do I see unexpected situations as an opportunity to ask what new thing the Lord is doing in my life at this moment (cf. Isaiah 43:19)?

As I prayed about this, I relaxed and realized that I had turned my attention to seeing reality as the Lord Himself sees it, rather than from my limited human perspective. Rather than seeking to live Advent the way I have been thinking I should be living it, I need to receive what the Lord Himself wants to give me during Advent, which I will find precisely in all the busyness of the season, if I am open to seeing it. This is the way to have the attitude of Our Lady in preparing for the coming of the Messiah: to open ourselves to receive Him and the graces He desires to send us.  

One of our Sisters is fond of saying that every day is Christmas. By this she means that every day is an opportunity to share joy through giving, just as Christ first gave Himself to us in the Incarnation. How much more freely we could impart that joy if we were to see our circumstances as He sees them and to receive them as a gift from Him. During this Advent season, may we recognize Christ and receive Him in the form of every gift He chooses to give. 

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.