Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Our Gospel for this First Sunday of Advent constitutes a real wake-up call. What do you think of this idea as a means of waking up in preparation for the coming of Christ?
A few years ago, in early December, I received the following e-mail from my friend Tom:
Hey, I want to tell quickly about something I’m doing for Advent. I call it my Savor Project. It stems from a conversation my fourteen-year-old daughter Elyse and I had. Elyse was lamenting how Christmas doesn’t have the same magic. She’s at that age where candy canes, twinkling lights, and cookies don’t produce the same intensity of “magic” as when she was younger. The crux of our discussion was how to make time slow down in order to prepare for the Christmas holidays. Sad to say, I had no good answer for Elyse.
The following day was a Monday, and the morning routine went off as usual, like so many other Mondays before it—alarm, out of bed, cleanup, dressed, out the door, and off to work. Same eyes staring back from the mirror, same face for manscaping, same soap, toothpaste, hair gel, deodorant, work clothes, belt, socks, shoes, lunch bag; same jacket, garage door opener, keys, drive to work…same, same, same. What was different was that I felt irritable, and, of course, it wasn’t the first day I drove to work feeling irritable, but it was the first time I was an irritable driver since speaking to Elyse about how to slow down the Christmas experience.
I wasn’t a mile from my house, and I was irritated by the same newspaper box that wanted the exact change I didn’t have. I was irritated because I had to sit at the same traffic light, for the same nonexistent traffic, for the same interminable period of time. Mr. Slowpoke, the guy who pulled out in front of me, irritated me. Less than 5,280 feet from my driveway, and I was irritated enough to predict that it was going to be a lousy day. That was not a good outlook to have for a Monday, and realizing this, I said to myself (I actually said it out loud), “I don’t want to be a Grinch today!” I just didn’t want to have a day where I was irritable and would dump my short-term misery onto other people. And then it hit me: I don’t have to be a Grinch, and I won’t be, because Christmas is coming. And that thought immediately linked itself to Elyse’s wishing to slow down and rediscover the Christmas Spirit. With the love of Elyse in my heart, I declared, “Today is DBAG day,” i.e. Don’t Be a Grinch Day. And for the rest of the day, I wasn’t a Grinch, because all day long, I had this funny little gimmick in my head that forced me to evaluate everything I did and what I said and how I said it. Today is Don’t Be a Grinch day.
In no small way, I was proud of myself for pulling that one off. The first ever, and gratefully successful, Don’t Be a Grinch Day caused me to slow down and think, and because of it, my day was enjoyable.
That night, I decided that every morning until Christmas Day, I would select a new theme for the day. Whatever the theme, it would provide the catalyst for me to slow down and think, to do something outside my daily routine, to force me to get off routine’s treadmill. By doing that, I would enjoy the day.
Bernie, I can’t believe this goofy little project is working, and I’m having fun with it. I call it my Christmas Savor Project. Yeah, I’m the only enrollee in the program, but that’s cool, and I owe it to Elyse for simply asking the obvious question: “How do I slow down and enjoy the holiday?”
Tom is a pretty eloquent fellow. Even his e-mails have literary merit. I am always telling him to write a book. Anyway, to get right down to brass tacks, here is his list of Christmas Savor themes, with only a few modifications. The themes are all based on Tom’s own idiosyncrasies, goals, shortcomings, and strengths. But perhaps we can all try something similar this Advent. Come to think of it, the Christmas Savor Project is like a spiritual Advent Calendar. Every day, however, presents not a new treat, but a new challenge. This is the list:
- Don’t Be a Grinch Day.
- Different Day. Change as much of the daily routine as possible. For example, drive to work a different way, eat something different for lunch, read instead of watching TV.
- Notch It Up Day. Wear nicer clothing to work. Do more than required.
- Compliment Day. Compliment the people with whom you interact.
- Restraint Day. Think before acting, speaking, or even thinking.
- Six “S” Day. Secure, sort, strengthen, shine, standardize, and sustain. For example, organize the basement or closet or desk.
- Get Right with God Day. Go to confession. Do penance. Fulfill a promise you have made to the Almighty. Start a list of prayer intentions.
- Yes Day. Say Yes to every reasonable request.
- Positive Day. Find the silver lining in every problem encountered and vocalize the positive. Be upbeat.
- Generosity Day. Look for opportunities to give, and then give more than your normal inclination. Put something in the poor box at church, or give a nice tip to the server at Dunkin’ Donuts.
- Social Skills Day. Say hello to people. Don’t double park. Don’t pull out in front of people. Don’t drive slowly in the left lane.
- Patriotic Day. Do something to honor our nation. For example, say the Pledge of Allegiance every time you see an American flog. Send a thank-you note to your congressman or to a veteran.
- Parable Day. Live the value taught by your favorite Bible parable, e.g. “The Prodigal Son,” “The Good Samaritan,” or “The Laborers in the Vineyard.”
- Appreciation Day. Look for opportunities to express appreciation.
- Thank You Day. Say thank you for everything.
- Exercise Day. If you don’t exercise, do some physical activity. Walk or jump rope. If you do exercise regularly, do something different.
- Talent Day. Use a talent to improve something around you.
- Apology Day. Remember, as the late Dr. Randy Pausch said, a good apology has three parts: (1) I am sorry. (2) It was my fault. (3) What can I do to make it right?
- Make a Memory Day. Do something for someone that will create a positive memory. Take dinner to your elderly neighbor. Take the family to a traditional Christmas event.
- Safety Day. Improve at least one condition that will make it safer for you or others around you. Come to a complete stop at every stop sign.
- Thrifty Day. Go to the dollar store or bag lunch. Reuse and recycle.
- Patience Day. Just be patient.
- Visiting Day. Visit a neighbor or family member or nursing home.
- Love Day. Tell others you love them. Say more if you wish, but nothing less.
May God grant all of us a blessed Advent wherein we wake up!
 Edited for purposes of clarity, brevity, and propriety.