December 2, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Advent: the annual giving adventure

During Advent, we prepare ourselves spiritually for the biggest birthday celebration of the year—Christmas, the commemoration of the birth of Jesus. However, let’s face it, no matter how prayerful or meditative we might be during this time, because of traditions long engrained into our families and society itself, Advent is also a busy, often frenetic, time for preparations of the practical, material and social kind.

Although I would like to concentrate more on the spiritual, like others, I get caught up in the early spirit of the season, too. Although I wish holiday hustle and bustle would not begin Thanksgiving week, I admit that even my family celebrates then with an early gift exchange in honor of St. Nicholas.

Why? Because, for years, we have not been able to get together for St. Nick’s Dec. 6 feast day, which we faithfully enjoyed by hanging stockings when our daughters were younger. Nor can we do this at Christmas because of varying situations and complications that the extended family has in locations other than Indianapolis. All of us mark the real holidays in individual and substantial ways, making Advent almost an adventure.

Changing traditions are not easy, but our time over the Thanksgiving weekend brings us together with high-spirited success. I look upon this as worthwhile, for we have been able to adapt to circumstances without sacrificing the spiritual values of the season. Yes, we exchange gifts early, but they are usually well thought out and sometimes not the material kind. Each of us becomes a gift to the others.

Some years ago, our eldest daughter, Donna, sent me a verse by an “Unknown Author” that I now share with readers. It applies in any season, but particularly—at least in our family—at this time of year. Why? Because it can be applied to anyone of any faith. (Donna converted to Judaism one year after she sent this.)

The Gift of Giving

The more you give, the more you get.
The more you laugh, the less you fret.
The more you do unselfishly,
The more you live abundantly.
The more of everything you share,
The more you’ll always have to spare.
The more you love, the more you’ll find
That life is good and friends are kind.
For only what we give away
Enriches life from day to day.

I see the above working not only in Donna’s life, but also in the lives of her sisters, Diane and Lisa. In fact, I see this regularly in the lives of nearly everyone I hold dear, including those who are with our Heavenly Father. After all, the “gift of giving” started with God the Father, his only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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