Oh, how my mind imagines such a joyful Advent, such a time of waiting, anticipating and hearing the carols to bring my mind into the Christmas Season. I can picture leisurely afternoons of decorating Christmas cookies and enjoying every minute of the painstakingly long process of decorating the house, each tinsel thread so delicately hung with care. I imagine the excitement building as my husband and I sit by the fire, telling stories to our children of the coming Baby Jesus.

I see it all so perfectly calculated in my mind's eye, and yet, I am always surprised when it doesn't happen just so. The past four weeks of Advent, have been rushed, crossing things off a to-do list, and one by one, realizing there just isn't enough hours in the day to accomplish it all.

It is a busy month, there is no doubt. The long lines in the stores prove the point, that we all scurry here and there to accomplish all our set out goals for Christmas. This month for us, we celebrate two of our little girls' birthdays as well, and we found weeks passing in Advent without our nativity set up, without a Christmas tree, without ornaments to gaze at or Holy Family statuettes to be inspired by.

Certainly, it shouldn't take these things to set the mood of the season. Advent is waiting, I get that, however, in all the bustle, I started to lose the point of it all. I started to be one of the people who run from here to there, without really living the reason for all the work I was doing. It was work to do work, not thinking of the why.

And then it hit me....I NEED those nativity sets out with the baby Jesus missing to contemplate the scene, think about the reality of what we are all waiting for. I NEED the tree up, decorated with our family’s ornaments, the ones that say "First Baby's Christmas" or some homemade treasure that my 1st grader made last year. I NEED to smell the pine, see the lights and pass by a few empty mangers to get it all into perspective.

Now, we normally wait until after my daughters’ birthdays before putting up the tree, working to be considerate of both girls and not allow them to be overshadowed. Recently, I had a great chat with a fellow Mom at school, who commented that Christmas must seem so short for us, as we wait so long. I agreed with her, it is short, the tree is up and then down in the span of only two weeks most years, in that effort to balance birthdays with Christmas. She then talked about her own birthday being close to Christmas, and never found herself resentful of the holiday. She said, it was always special, that she had her own special day, but with a bonus, all the additional decorations and goodies always made her feel especially blessed to have her birthday in the month of December.

Wow. I never looked at it that way. I've seen firsthand in my own family how a December birthday, close to Christmas, can be overshadowed, and sacrificed on some level in order to embrace the Christmas season. But I had never seen it as this fellow Mom had put it to me. If a parent makes a point to make that birthday girl feel special, then all the rest is extra, not competition.

And that made sense. This Advent being a bit crazy, trying to fit it all in, and taking into account this fellow Mom's perspective, I started to talk with my husband about a possible new strategy in handling December birthdays and Christmas.

I started to notice my own other children's disappointment that no decorations had been put up yet, how even my birthday girl asked to get our tree up and decorated, how both girls loved the planning involved in Christmas gift giving. They have been raised in a home that would never let a birthday go by without special fan-fare, but also have been raised in a home where we look to the deeper meaning of Christmas often, contemplate the reason for all the hubba-baloo, and believe deeply in the gift that God gave to us, in His Son.

I, especially, noticed how I wasn't the only one who needed to see the tangible elements of Christmas, to feel and live the spirit of this time of year. We decorate to remind us of the 'whys' we do all that we do. We put out nativities to have physical reminders of why we are generous, why we give a bit more, try a little more, or love a little deeper. It's not always easy to give when we don't feel like it. But at Christmas we remember our little gifts for others, are for a greater purpose, a larger mission.

I am seriously considering leaving out our nativities all year round. We should always have reminders around us to silently speak to us, to show us ultimately why we do what we do, to soften our hearts to keep us alert and ready at all times.

Some of us are more visual in our needs, and shifting our focus from the to-dos to the blessings of such a season has not only changed a few hearts in this house, it has made us happier, more compassionate, and light hearted. This last weekend, we spent time and prepared our home and hearts for the coming of God's gift to us. We looked over and gazed into the ornaments of the past, wondered at the empty mangers and talked over how even Santa goes to pray before the newborn King before handing out his gifts.

So, did we sit by the fire, drink the hot cocoa, watch the snow fall, while discussing the theology of such a season? No, we didn't, and maybe we won't get there. I don't know. What I do know, is that we took time together as a family. I talked with my three-year old Babe before bedtime to ask him where the Baby Jesus was. His answer, so sweet, "I don't know, Momma".

"He's coming, soon. Soon it will be His birthday, He was a little boy just like you. Do you know that?"

Babe answers, "Momma, I'm big boy. I not a baby!"

My first reflection this Advent, comes via this little boy, who reminded me what little boys are like....and how Our Lady must have found little ways to teach about God. Mary must have found a kind of balance in her own family life, to not only celebrate but to teach and contemplate herself, the deeper meanings behind it all. She must have, in order to not only live it, but infuse her family with it.

So, sometimes, it does begin with us, as the Mothers of our homes. If we are scattered, then so is everyone else. If we are focused, and centered, then it transmits to those around us. It's a gift and a responsibility to set the tone of our homes. Let it begin this Christmas. Let it begin with us.

As we sang "Happy Birthday" to our little girls, it brought to all our minds, just how grateful we are to have the gift of life. It's a gift that God had a hand in, so intimately, so delicately, and how even He lived the human experience, born of a woman, so helpless and defenseless. And ultimately His mission is ours too, to obey and live the Will of the Father.

May this Christmas be time celebrating the gift of life, grateful for breath in our lungs, food on our table, and a Savior willing to be born, to suffer, to die, in order that we might have true and eternal life.

May God bless you this Christmas and always!

Copyright 2011 Sahmatwork