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Over 90% of our graduates complete high school within four years, in a city with an on-time high school graduation rate that hovers around 65%.

Six tips for preparing for Christmas without stress

From the desk of Fr. Neil Ver'Schneider, Vice Principal and Chaplain

This Sunday, December 1st, Christians begin their preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ—Christmas. As you know, Christmas is a wonderful holiday, but it often becomes stressful when we let our celebration get out of focus. God's coming should not be stressful! Of course, we have lots of help losing the focus of our celebration; TV and newspaper advertising distort the meaning of Christmas. 

The word Christmas means “Mass of Christ.” The Mass (the name still used for the Catholic worship service) is where the Word of God (the Bible) and Jesus's words at the Last Supper, "do this in memory of me" [Luke 22:19] make present Jesus among us, in the Jewish sense of the word "remembrance." So Christmas is a reflection on God's gift of Jesus, who became man and dwelt among us to teach us how to live as sons and daughters of God our Father. Jesus was willing to give everything—even his life—that we might believe and have everlasting life [Jn 3:16ff].

Let us keep our focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Let us join Christians throughout the world by preparing ourselves and our families spiritually for Christmas. If you are not a member of a church, find one and join in the Christmas preparation called Advent, which means "the Coming." (You are always welcome at St. Malachy’s at 11th and Masters Streets. I am there every weekend. The Sunday service is at 10 AM.)

At Christmas, we not only celebrate the historical birth of Jesus, but we celebrate His birth within us. His birth in us comes through acknowledging him as our Lord and Savior and trying to live our faith each day. Each day we must remain faithful, constantly choosing to live as a child of God, so we are prepared for that final coming when Jesus can say to us, “Well done good and faithful servant,… enter into the joy of your master!” [Matthew 25:23]. Thus, as we prepare for Christmas, we prepare not only to celebrate his coming as a baby in the manger of Bethlehem, but—more pertinent for us and for our salvation—His coming more fully into our lives now, for we know neither the hour nor the day!

This time of preparation is a time when we open ourselves to Jesus, for “The WORD was made flesh and made his dwelling among us” [John 1:14]. Saint Paul says that we “who were baptized into Christ have clothed ourselves with Christ,” [Galatians 3:27] and we await the return of the risen Lord when he will come in his glory. We wait trying to live each day in Christ [Romans 13, Colossians 3], knowing that we must be accountable as disciples of Christ. So let us use this Advent time to renew our individual lives in Christ as well as that of our families.

This means you must take charge of your preparation for the celebration of Christmas! Try taking the following steps:

1st—Take charge of your attitude towards Christmas.

  • Do not let the commercials tell you what Christmas is all about.

  • Don't let shopping be the focus of your Christmas.

2nd—Steer your family's celebration towards sharing of self, being present, and interacting with family, and away from an emphasis on gift giving. Christmas is not about receiving presents, but about being present to one another, because Jesus became present to us through His birth, life, death and resurrection. So the sharing of your self, your time, and your presence year-round is the best present!

  • Find time for dinner together, especially on Sundays and birthdays.

  • "Waste time" as a family by doing things together like playing family games, watching movies or TV together, visiting Grandmom and/or Grandpop, going to the library, visiting museums, going fishing, having picnics in the park, seeing the special holiday decorations, etc.

  • Go to church regularly as a family, especially on Christmas and New Years.

3rd—Shift the focus from gifts received to gifts of self given to others.

  • Ask your child to choose 3 gifts he/she would like and list them in order of preference. Then try to get one or two of them if they are not too expensive. Children need to learn early that not every want or wish can be fulfilled.

  • Do not equate expensive gifts with love. Too often, the size or amount spent betrays an actual neglect of that person during the year.

  • Being there for someone is not mainly through gifts but being present in the little things like a walk to the playground or park, attending his/her games, etc.

  • Plan early and spend time making simple presents for Grandmom and Granddad, Godmother, etc.

4th—Focus on Christ.

  • Have a manger in the house.

  • The custom of putting straw in the manger every time we do some kindness for another is a good way of linking our lives to the birth of Christ and learning how to live preparing for the second coming of Christ in His fullness at the end of  time.

  • Christmas is a time of healing, letting go of grudges, making up, forgiving, and being a peacemaker.

5th—Focus on sharing outside the family.

  • Invite an elderly person living alone to Christmas dinner or over during the holidays.

  • Take a dinner to the sick or shut-in or the shelter.

6th—Prepare for Christmas by reading the Advent scripture readings as a family and discussing the meaning of Jesus in our lives.

Father Neil