Our plans were rained out today, so I decided to move our traditional December 23rd Family Christmas Cleaning of the house one day early to today. Christmas Eve is traditionally (but no longer obligatory) a day of fasting and penance (as is typical before any great Catholic feast day), and there is permission to migrate that day of penance to the 23rd (even Wikipedia explains this correctly!) due to all the festivities on the 24th.
On one hand, we are cleaning for purely secular reasons: because we enjoy a clean house during all our festivities. On the other hand, we can think of our housecleaning as a pragmatic way to prepare our homes for the birth of the baby Jesus. If we knew Mary and Joseph would be wandering our town, needing a place to stay . . . if we had foresight instead of ignorance of Who was to be born . . . how would we prepare? Would our home be too full? Would we send the Holy Family to the garage (the stable) to take refuge? Or would we clean our home sparkling clean top to bottom and offer them our best bedroom? Meditating on this perspective during Family Christmas Cleaning day makes it all that much more meaningful for me.
On a pragmatic note, I rallied the troops with a little on-the-fly creativity: I wrote on note papers every chore that needed to be completed. Children were free to pick what chores they wanted to do--and we all know adults and children alike prefer choices--and we all worked simultaneously, which aids greatly in procuring cooperation. It's not me versus them, it's us as a family.
When a child finished his chosen assignment, he asked me to inspect it, and then I'd put a colored star on his paper (blue for John, red for Mary, etc.). At the conclusion, I counted up all the stars and handed out tiny sweet treats accordingly: a small price to play for mostly fun and cooperation with only a little bit of exasperation and raised voices!
The house is momentarily clean and beautiful, even down to the innumerable dried-on spills of the baby's spit-up on the floors!
|Even the two-year-old contributed quite a bit!|
I have been trying for the last weeks to value the process of preparing for Christmas, which is normally one of the most stressful several weeks of my whole year, instead of hanging all ego on the end result. What if I died tomorrow, never seeing this last Christmas? Would these days of cooking, planning, shopping, and wrapping have been peaceful and even joyous ones? Or days full of anger, snappish temper, and shooing the children away from me? I'm far from perfect, but I am trying to make the daily doing the beautiful thing and the point of it all, instead of one moment in time (in this case, December 25). And with two people in our home who have gotten sick this week, with me wondering whether everyone is set to get sick in a domino effect next and dash all our Christmas plans akimbo, I am even more aware that the daily doing needs to be the point!
Advent is drawing to a close and we prepare our physical environs, but more importantly our hearts. I share this short and lovely piece by Simcha Fisher, whose take-away point is this:
"What did you hope to find on Christmas morning? A God who is impressed by cinnamon buns and glazed ham? A Savior who is satisfied with something you found on Pinterest? Friends, the one thing and only thing that the Christ Child wants for His birthday is the gift of your heart, which you turn over to Him in that dark little box of the confessional."