Be a Good Steward of the Advent and Christmas Seasons

 

December is such a busy time of year, and a month that tempts us to lose sight of the profound spiritual importance of the Advent and Christmas seasons. The best way to stay focused on the coming of Jesus Christ is to be good stewards of his presence in our daily lives. Here are simple ways to exercise good stewardship of this sacred time of year.

GIVE GOD A VERY SPECIAL GIFT THIS YEAR:  Let this gift be something personal that no one else needs to know about, and let it be a sacrifice. Perhaps your gift will be to commit to spending more time with God daily. Perhaps there is a habit you know you should give up. Why wait for a New Year’s resolution? Start now.

CELEBRATE THE SEASON OF ADVENT:  Light the Advent wreath candles each night before dinner. If you have children, let them offer their own prayers to the Christ child for whom we are waiting.

SET ASIDE A SPECIAL TIME TO READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY in the Gospel of Saint Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20: Consider reading this account with your family and discussing it together.

PUT UP A CRECHE IN YOUR HOME AT THE BEGINNING OF ADVENT:   Consider having one set that is “kid-proof” which your children are allowed to handle. Kids love to make the Nativity story their own, and they especially love the angels!

PLAN A PROJECT TO HELP SOMEONE THIS CHRISTMAS: Identify someone with a genuine need, involve your whole family and see how happy you can make someone this Christmas. Participate in your parish Adopt-a-Family program or call Catholic Charities or another charity and find a family through their programs. Make sure your children take part in shopping for a family who needs extra help and make them aware of the needs in your community.

TAKE A GROUP CHRISTMAS CAROLING TO A NURSING HOME OR CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL: Get people together. Make it festive. Bring the gifts of your joyful smiles and voices to those who may need these gifts.

GIVE A SURPRISE GIFT OF SERVICE TO EACH MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY:  The idea of giving an unexpected gift of service to members of your family reveals your own love and concern for them.

You might consider giving your spouse a day away, running an errand for your brother, or cleaning out a closet for your mother. Make it personal and meaningful.

SEND CHRISTMAS CARDS AND THANK YOU NOTES THAT CONVEY A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE:  This is an easy way to share your faith during the Advent season. Don’t just sign your name! Include a personal message with each card. Set aside some time after Christmas Day to write thank you notes and help your children to write thank you notes for the gifts they receive. This is a wonderful habit for a lifetime.

WRITE A CHRISTMAS LETTER TO SOMEONE FAR AWAY SUCH AS SOMEONE IN THE SERVICE, or perhaps someone working or ministering in a foreign country: It has been said that receiving a letter when you are far away from home is like opening a priceless gift on Christmas morning, no matter what day of the year. Many people are unable to travel home for the holidays, so it can be a very lonely time for them.

ATTEND CHRISTMAS MASS TOGETHER WITH YOUR FAMILY:  If you are alone this Christmas or don’t have family living near you, invite a friend or a neighbor to join you.

Thank God for the Power of Prayer

I want to share a personal story.  Maybe even a little more personal than I usually do.  It involves my son.

First, I want to say that I have conversations with so many people who say that their adult children no longer practice their Catholic Faith.  And what a heartache that can be to a parent who did everything in their power to instill the love of God and Church in their children.

So, to start this story I want to say that we all know that everything happens in GOD’S TIME.   He is not encumbered with clocks and calendars like we are.  It is all eternal time.  So it may seem like a long time to have a prayer answered, but to God the time is just right!

Two months ago, I sat with my son all day as he prepared (waited) to be shipped off to the Naval Training Center on Lake Michigan.   In conversation, I asked him if a sailor wears a dog tag.  (My only frame of reference is the Marine Corps in which my daddy served.)  He said yes, they do…funny you should ask.  They had just asked him about his religious preference and he told them NONE.  My heart sank.  He’s a cradle Catholic, attended Catholic school, and has always seen religion being practiced around him.

He has always continued to identify as a Catholic but, as an adult, has not practiced his faith regularly. He said he didn’t want to be a hypocrite and say that he was a Catholic when he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain.

I reminded him of the story of the Prodigal Son and assured him that there would be much rejoining when he came back.

I gave him a Soldier’s rosary (woven thread with no metal) and he said he would carry it in his pocket.

I got my first letter from him after a few weeks and he said that he had attended Mass and that “it felt really good”.  He shared that the homily had really made him think about some things in his life and he was quite moved by it.

And then, the pièce de résistance, is that the chaplain handed out bibles as they left the chapel.  As a recruit, he’s not allowed any reading material other than religious.  So, he’s reading the bible now.

I shared my opinion that the bible can be rather daunting if you just start at the first page and try to plow through it.  I encouraged him to let the Spirit direct him and feel free to just open to a random page.

(Of course, the beauty of it is that it may seem random to us, but we are certainly being directed to a passage that will be very meaningful at that given moment.)

I haven’t received another letter from him.  He’s tried to call several times, but I was on vacation and out of cell phone range.  I believe in my heart that he is continuing this path.    And really, even if today isn’t the day, this experience has made a positive impact on his journey.  Tomorrow I’ll fly to Chicago to watch him graduate from Boot Camp!  I couldn’t be more proud of him!

As a side note, I have often talked about the little things that can make a big impact on someone.  While I was on vacation, I sent my son at least one, and sometime up to five postcards every day for 14 days.  I started each one with the day number (DAY 1…).  I knew he would want to put them in chronological order.  I just shared the usual postcard drivel, told him I loved him and was praying for him.  The cost the minimal.    I knew it would make him happy and that he would feel very loved and not forgotten.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do Random Acts of Kindness.  Try every day.  And thank God for answering your prayers.

 

FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP

Testimonial Continued…

 FEEL THE FEAR

And pull back a little. Do what takes you just up to that fear. Be gentle with yourself. Why would you deliberately want to put yourself into fear mode? Does that serve you? Will that serve the world? Giving 10% of my gross income, when I have received a decent pay check puts me into fear mode. Website reviews on money & credit repair, showed me how to manage debt, like prestige financial  — and assuage my fears and figure out ways to improve my credit.

So, right off the bat, I felt like I could not tithe 10% every single time. I seem to have a limit. While I am exploring this idea, I give what I can. If I have no fear of tithing 10%, when I receive $100 or $200, I give the 10%. When I feel fear, I tithe at 1%. Lately I’m at about 3%. I’m ‘stretching the spiritual muscles’ and I have confidence in myself that I will be capable of tithing the full 10% of ALL my gross income, in the future.

DO IT RIGHT AWAY

When you receive income, calculate how much money you ‘get’ to give back. Even when the amount seems huge to me, I delight in being able to easily give in the future. It builds your ‘generosity muscles’.

“I received $1,000 this week! I ‘get’ to give my spiritual center $100!” Try it on for awhile if you’re not there yet.

I’m certainly not, but I delight in the feelings of being there.

I imagine how great it feels to give that $100 in tithe. I imagine all the goodness that $100 provides for others. I practice this visualization until it becomes a reality. Everything begins with imagination.

PRACTICE CONSISTENCY

If all you can give without freaking out is 1%, give 1% regularly for awhile. Avoid the roller coaster of giving 1% one week, because that’s all you feel comfortable with, and 3% or 5% next week because THAT feels okay at the time. You want to aim for consistency. You want to be gentle with yourself. When you feel capable of giving 5% one week, but nothing the next week, how does that make you feel? You don’t need to create this kind of drama for yourself. It’s much better to spread your contributions out, at a consistent level.

You want to aim to be able to freely and joyfully give, without fear. Aim to freely and joyfully give 1% each week, for a month.  Then try (consistently) to freely and joyfully give 3% for the next month. Even if one week you feel you can give 10%, resist doing so. Consistency is important.

Another way to ensure consistency, is by taking stock of your finances to see if you can manage or minimize debts.Website information on how to do this can be found on credit repair or personal finance forums.

 JUST GIVE

Avoid thinking about – or tracking – what you get in return for tithing. Doing so is a mentality of lack and will not serve you. The aim is to freely and joyfully give, knowing that the Universe is abundant. Have faith and confidence that what you give is multiplied, and returned to you in abundance. Learn to graciously give and learn to graciously receive.  If you are still not sure about tithing, I encourage you to do some research into this practice. In meditation or prayer, ask the Spirit to provide you with resources to deepen your understanding. The practice of tithing has helped me shift my perspective on finances, significantly. And it still IS practice – I am not yet capable of freely and joyfully giving a full 10% of my income.

I do aim to be capable of doing this, because my spiritual center matters a great deal to me. It’s important that I not give up on this. To NOT give indicates that I believe there is limited resources from which to draw upon. I believe Spirit is everything, therefore, Spirit is my one and only source. I choose to give, knowing the Universe/Spirit provides abundantly and I am open to receive it.