Now is as good a time to make a spiritual gift list as any, and better than most. You certainly have other lists to make -- who will get what, who should get a nice tip, where you will donate some end-of-the-year money, what you need from the grocery store and what dishes you will prepare from what you buy, a list of decorating deadlines, a list of church services and obligations. You already have a long list of lists.
But this list isn't yet another list to add to your list of lists. The things on your spiritual gift list aren't added to the top of your pile of to-dos: they're on the bottom. They're not yet another thing; they're the first things. They're the foundation of your season of preparation, not the cherry on top. They are, after all, what will make it all peaceful and possible.
1. The gift of prayer
Ask God for the gift of prayer every day. Don't make judgments or
lay down a lot of rules about what that prayer should be. Don't try
to get an "A" in it -- high school is over. Just ask God to give you the
gift of it, and then be alert to what happens. It may suddenly occur
to you that being stuck in traffic is a good time to pray, or that the
subway is a good place for it. You may realize that your morning
walk fills you with gratitude at the beauty of the world and the power
of your own legs to take you where you want to go, and that this,
too, is prayer. Prayer can be a lot of things. Ask God to show you
some of them.
2. The gift of honesty
Don't lie about being sad, if that's what you are. Okay, maybe you
do have to put on a good face for the sake of your colleagues. But
find someone to whom you can be truthful about what hurts -- all the
person has to be is a good listener. Telling another human being
makes it easier to talk about it to God, and vice versa. Remember that
the first Christmas wasn't a very easy one, either.
3. The gift of reading.
Read something. Not just magazines about Christmas cookies --
although you certainly don't have to give those up if you love them as
I do. But a book, large or small, about the spiritual life. Even just a
page a day -- from Forward Day by Day, or Guideposts, or Our
Daily Visitor, or any one of the many books of daily meditations.
Read a poem a day. Or a hymn every day. Start or end your
day with this thoughtful companionship with another mind besides
your own. I will try, as a special discipline this Advent, to make the
Almost-Daily eMo an every day occurrence.
4. The gift of confession
Consider making a sacramental confession during Advent.
Consider this even if you've never done it and even if you're not
entirely sure you approve -- in fact, consider it especially if either of
those two things are true. And be prepared to be surprised by a very
special peace and joy.
5. The gift of worship
Go to church. See the explanation in #4.
6. Consider all these things gifts, not tasks.
Just ask God to give them to you for your good and your joy, and
then relax about them.
May you receive all these gifts, many times in the coming weeks. Remember that all you have to do is ask.
Need a book suggestion? Check the Geranium Farm bookstore at www.geraniumfarm.org/bookstore.cfm