In the newspaper back home, during December we always have a little drawing of Snoopy from Peanuts with a countdown such as, “Fourteen shopping days ‘til Christmas!” I’ve been thinking lately, isn’t it kind of odd that we would reduce the Christmas season to the number of days left to finish buying presents, as if that is all the holiday is about? As we prepare to celebrate our Lord’s birth, I’d like to suggest that we be a little counter-cultural and imagine these next two weeks as “Fourteen praying days ‘till Christmas!”
We’re buying our gifts, we’re decorating the house and the tree, we’re pulling out the Christmas music –all great and wonderful things! –but are we really preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation?
By the time all the presents have been unwrapped and the paper and bows have all been thrown away, a mere two weeks from now, will you have grown any closer to God and gained any deeper insight into the mystery of his becoming man?
It’s kind of like a young man who has a crush on a certain girl. To develop a relationship with her, he will have to do three things: 1) spend time with her, 2) talk with her, and 3) get to know her. He doesn’t stand a chance if he is always too busy to spend time with her, avoids conversation with her, or doesn’t try in the least bit to get to know what makes her unique. Likewise, our relationship with Christ won’t develop if we don’t set aside time to spend alone with him, talking with him in prayer and getting to know him through study.
With this in mind, I’d like to suggest what Patrick Madrid calls the “Catholic Roboflex” challenge, named after those exercise advertisements that suggest that you too can look like the mega-fit sweaty people in the commercials if only you spend twenty or thirty minutes a day on their product. He proposes a similar regime for building one’s faith life: each day, sit down and read one chapter from the Gospels and two paragraphs from the Catechism (the book that explains the different teachings that we believe as Catholics.) That’s it: just one chapter from the Gospels and half a page from the Catechism, an easy fifteen minute read a day, and Madrid guarantees that very quickly you will begin to see a noticeable improvement in your familiarity with Scripture and your understanding of the faith!
Why not try a special Advent version of the “Roboflex” to prepare for Christmas these next two weeks? You could choose one of the Gospels and work your way through the Nativity narrative a chapter per day. Then, you could continue by reading a couple of paragraphs from the section in the Catechism that discusses the coming of Jesus Christ into the world (starting with “Why did the Word Become Flesh?” on paragraph 456.) It would only take fifteen minutes, half of what you might spend watching a sitcom. I bet that you would be surprised how much even this small bit of reflection on the Word of God will bring prayer and meaning to your Christmas!
“Fourteen praying days left until Christmas!”
Online version of the Catechism of the Catholic ChurchChristmas, Prayer