A Reflection by Megan DeRosier, Xavier'13
Colegio Miguel Pro
Tacna, Peru

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 JVC email newsletter. For information on JVC: www.jesuitvolunteers.org

When the first Sunday of Advent suddenly appeared, I was a little shocked. It's December, it's Christmas, already? Without my usual cues of Christmas - lights on houses, snow and cold, ugly sweater parties, trees of sharing and food drives, Christmas music constantly on the radio, and an inescapable barrage of advertising - I realized how much I have relied on these external cues to alert myself to the Christmas season, instead of preparing my soul for the coming of Christ with real, internal work.

Don't get me wrong, Christmas is celebrated well here. Last night the students from many schools gathered in the main plaza to sing Christmas carols, and tonight I will join professors from other Catholic schools to sing some more. There are red and green banners on the lights downtown, light up "Feliz Navidad" signs, Christmas music, and a large Nativity scene and huge tree complete with shimmering gold star on top, in the main plaza. But I'm not assaulted by reminders every minute of every day. There is Christmas music on the radio, but I rarely hear the radio. There is absolutely commercial advertising, but as we aren't downtown shopping, I'm not around it much. It's also HOT; I am sweating when I am usually shivering in December. It's just a very different feel. (I hear on Christmas Eve they drink hot chocolate here, even though it's hot out, and it apparently tastes very different. My thought: it's chocolate. Score!)

While it is a sad realization that without external/material cues I have to remind myself of Christmas - I feel like I am not the only person on the planet who would admit to feeling this way. It is also an exciting realization that I feel less clutter around me and feel more able to prepare myself more completely for the coming of Christ. I have a real desire to do some inner work this Christmas season to ready and excite my soul when the Savior babe re-comes into the world, but what does it mean to ready and excite my soul? I've read great pieces lately on making space, on spending less not only being about money and material goods, but what does all of this mean to me? What do I do with it personally?

There have been a lot of babies being born in my life lately, so I started to think about preparations parents today make for children about to arrive in the world. Though I am not a parent, and this baby coming into the world will always take better care of me than I do of him, should I not prepare in the same way? Parents today paint a room and obtain the necessary furniture to make it a beautiful, loving, comfortable environment where the baby can rest, play, and grow. Do I prepare space in my heart for Jesus to dwell, where we can grow together? Parents spend time choosing a meaningful name for their baby. Do I know what I call Jesus, and what that means to me? Parents read baby books on how to best care for their new being. Do I read to learn more about Jesus? life and teachings or on how to better care for our relationship? Parents have baby showers. Do I invite my friends to celebrate the coming of Christ with me in word and action? Parents go on ma(pa)ternity leave or stop working in order to care for their child. Do I change my schedule to have plenty of time to spend with and get to know this new precious miracle? Why is welcoming baby Jesus into the world not the same as any other anticipated newborn? This may be simple and obvious, but for me, it was a concrete way to check myself, my thoughts and actions. Am I truly, actively, preparing.

For me, this preparation has been manifesting itself through time and awareness. Spending the time to pray, learn, thank, love, and receive makes me more aware of my thoughts and actions, and fills me with life-giving joy. For me, I have to physically stop. Sit in silence instead of turn on my music. Take moments out of my day to center myself and express gratefulness, frustration, joy or confusion, and receive the comfort graced to me for turning to the only one who can hold all those things for me and for the world. This awareness and time during Christmas, much like the time and awareness spent preparing for a new baby in the family, will help condition me to practice these things all year long, which will hopefully turn into a lifestyle for me.

It will be odd spending Christmas without my parents, sister, and grandparents, and I will obviously be thinking of and missing them. Here though, I am excited to be sharing Christmas with a mix of my host family and my community and to truly be alive with deep joy, awe, and gratitude when the baby arrives.

I pray that each of you find time this advent season to prepare in whatever ways you need. May peace, peace, peace (so much peace!) be with you.

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