When Advent is all Glitter and Sorrows
by Rita Davidson
I sit here, with the sun outside and a breezy 40F out. No snow, and it looks more like Spring then Christmas season. I struggled to share with you some spectacular Advent preparations. But I don’t have anything spectacular to share. So, I’ll share with you ‘our’ Advent as it really is.
When our girls were young, we didn’t know any better than to get out decorations early, and start preparing way ahead of time physically. In time we pushed that ahead more and more to try keep “Christmas celebrating” more like “Advent celebrating” and not like the secular world would have it.
I’m surprised, I’ve noticed, I see less and less Christmas lights outside. This makes me sad. Less and less people seem to be celebrating Christmas. As the world draws more and more away from Christ, we see the commercial side of Christmas, but less and less real output of celebrating the “reason for the season”. It’s not even legal in some workplaces!
With our older girls now gone, we have four boys now, Advent preparations have been harder to prepare for. Despite my own sorrows, there is lot about this season they don’t understand. Autism can do that. So, it is more difficult to plan.
I’ve managed to get up our Advent Calendars. One that we sell Little Steps to Bethlehem (available here) and put up an enlarged Calendar, so that they can visually see the days counting down in a familiar Calendar format. We put a glittery sticker there each day.
I introduced these Calendars to the boys and they will enjoy counting down the days that way. The stickers make it all worthwhile for them. My oldest boy is saying the St. Andrew Novena, and the ‘Countdown to Christmas’ we have made available here. He is high functioning enough to be able to do this much. He enjoys decorating as time goes on too. Not all their understanding is what we would consider ‘religious’.
Our one son, Andrew, has difficulty understanding God. At 13, he is like the doubting Thomas. He is like a soul in the purgatorial way, that he has no comforts from God. He is like a lost soul out there, with no consolations from God to comfort him with his faith.
It is difficult to understand, at times, how his autism prevents him from seeing God as we do. With his autism as a filter, he only sees in black and white. He knows things that are, real, are real. But to be able to comprehend something that is not able to be seen is impossible for him.
He has always had a great fear of death. So, when heaven is mentioned he immediately gets a downcast face. Heaven to him, is a reminder that death is waiting. He fears every birthday, because this is another reminder that he is getting older, and getting older means closer to death. Is it any wonder why God made him born in December? Who of us, wants to die? How much more for a child with limited language and comprehension?
At a time when joy should be in our hearts, he feels sorrow for the world he will miss. No matter how I explain it, no matter what stories I tell, I have never been able to help him to understand the joys awaiting him. It saddens my heart to know how he hurts and how he pains, all because he cannot understand the God that loves him, so dearly. Life is heavy for them. Joy comes with difficulty, so I try to make our life as fun as we can make it.
I have to keep things very visual for the boys, since they learn best like that. Our Home altar Nativity display for Christmas will be going up soon. With the Maji statues waiting to travel to Bethlehem for the newborn King.
I get whatever DVD’s I can find of the Christmas story (or Easter story at Easter) to help teach them. (that is why I’m such a fan of good dvd’s). And not all DVD’s are ‘good’.
I once caught him watching a stop animation movie we love here, The Miracle Maker. He just starred at the movie. As the story continued with sick daughter of Jairus who dies and Jesus makes come alive, the tears started streaming down his face. He said nothing. As he continued watching, Jesus was tortured and crucified, he was horrified. But as He rose from the tomb, the tears started rolling again. Again he said nothing.
When I asked, “What is wrong?”
(always hoping to seize opportunities to start, what is a difficult conversation, for him).
He whispered: “He’s alive.” with tears streaming down his face.
As I swallowed the growing lump in my throat, I answered, “Yes, He is.”
And we sat there in silence, with that very large thought between us. I prayed it might be that glimmer of hope I was looking for. I thought to myself, there is ‘something’ down in him that understands. A glimmer. But in no time it was gone, and he was back to his sorrowful self, when he thinks of anything of heaven and God.
Now it is Advent and time for Christmas so this difficult “God” idea comes around again.
So I hang up the Advent calendars and try to start good conversations, always looking to see that glimmer again.
To see our children suffering breaks a mothers heart. To know that God is right there waiting to enfold them in His arms is heartbreaking. Much like our older children, that have turned away from the faith, all seems dark, when we know they can no longer see the light.
But we mothers plod on, planting the seeds we can, and waiting for those glimmers now and again. The game has changed. We can no longer depend on the Advent decorations and things that worked once before. The simple faith that was so easy to plant when children were young, and faith came easy. Now we are dealing with autism, and agnostism, and estranged children. Now we have to be more clever, and find God in everywhere, and put Him in everything.
That dvd we put on, might start a conversation. That Train software he uses to create train layouts might spur him understanding how God might have created the world. His anger when someone shows up late, spurs him to ask, “does he love God?” Hmmm, I think there is some good grace going on there, if he is judging this man based on if he loves God or not. But again, the glimmer grows and fades just as fast as it came. I look onward for another opportunity.
That is why I like glitter. The glitter of Christmas lights and tinsel, reminds me of the hope we all have in Christmas. As we grow older our crosses grow with us and Christmas is the reminder, that brings out the worst of our crosses. Sometimes it’s all we can do but, “breathe”. But I have learned to take joy in seeing the glitter. As we drive at night, we watch for every new house with Christmas lights. It’s like a victory in my heart that God’s grace is there in the world. Glitter reminds me of the hope we have in God. Glitter is my consolation that God will dry every tear one day.
So when you see the glitter and lights this Christmas. Instead of complaining how Christmas has become all commercial, let it remind you of the Light of the Infant Christ coming this Christmas. He comes to dry every tear, bring joy to every tired soul, and make your heart his manger this year. Let this be the year you finally, Believe. Because as Andrew once said, “He’s alive.”
Will you be ready for His coming?
©Copyright 2012 Rita Davidson All Rights Reserved.
Rita is a Catholic wife and mother of seven children. Mark is her ever patient husband. She reverted back to the faith when her oldest was making her First Communion. By then, she had completed degrees in Hairdressing and Make up artistry. She went on to receive a degree in Natural Health and another degree in Art. At age 26, Rita suffered a minor stroke. With no lasting effects, this dramatically changed her outlook on life. In 1996, Rita began ‘Little Flowers Family Apostolates’ to reach out to other families with her new found faith, by creating unique Catholic books and resources.. In 1999, she wrote the bestselling, ‘Immodesty; Satan’s Virtue’. She was editor of ‘The Catholic Health Letter’ for 7 years. She has been a homeschooling mom for 20+ years, and has written for various magazines. She is honored that families have trusted her with their questions, needs and concerns over the years. She continues to write and reach out to Catholic families with her husband, Mark and their 4 boys through