The slim and tall radiator cover in the corner of our dining room has become an attractive and preferred dumping ground (or as my dear friend calls it, “a pile of disrespect”) for any and all pieces of miscellany paper in my personal and professional life: Kids’ homework, notes from teachers, half-chewed pencils, the soon-to-be or partially read Star Trib, coupons, the birthday calendar, the need-it-from-Target list and holiday cards received. You name it, you will find it here.

Much to my delight, out of the towering pile last week emerged an Advent lesson that has shifted my focus these last few days of classes; these frenetic days as faculty and students prepare for finals; these exciting and exhausting times as, on and off campus, we anticipate the Christmas celebrations that await us all.

It was last Thursday when I noticeably cringed as my 8-year old pulled from her school backpack a rather large poster. She excitedly balanced it on the pile of disrespect already healthily accumulating from the week. Resisting my urge to stuff it into recycling after darkness fell and she fell off to sleep, thank goodness I didn’t. I watched the poster take on a new life – and assume a prominent place on our chalkboard right next to the family calendar – in the coming days. Colorful and full of child-friendly illustrations, the poster proclaims “Do Advent!”

Although I hate clutter, I have to admit I love how this simple, smart poster has not only shifted the behavior of my kids in the past week (they proudly point out kind and helpful things they are DOing), but it also has encouraged me to see my students, the campus, my friends, family, colleagues and the profound preparations of the holiday season in a new light.

“Do Advent! “ suggests we: Do create. count. write. give. shine (even if the sun doesn’t). warm. feed. play. invite. decorate. care. read. greet. pray. watch. reflect. wait. connect. eat. wait some more. clean. wrap. see. warm. sing. draw. help. bake. receive. prepare.

Instead of feeling a bit frantic as I grade one last set of papers, answer endless end-of-semester student questions and celebrate the season’s grandeur (including fulfilling my duties as Santa and busy elf in my home), I have noticed the many ways that our campus is Doing Advent. It’s all around. Stop by, if you’re not on campus often, and see for yourself.

You might, for instance, notice signs congratulating the students who stayed Up ‘til Dawn last weekend raising record-breaking amounts of money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Do care.

Or the various collection sites for food to benefit local food shelves. Do feed.
Or the boxes and offices collecting mittens and scarves to warm the tootsies of many toddlers in the Twin Cities. Do warm.
Or the colorful lights lovingly strung in the trees and windows around campus, a visual “shout out” to the brightness of the season. Do decorate.
Or remnants of the hundreds of kids who converged on campus with their parents and grandparents on Saturday to sit on Santa’s lap and run crazily around the field house to their holiday-hearts’ delight. Do play.
Or tables with student volunteers greenly (think reduce, reuse, recycle) wrapping each others’ presents and teaching others how to do so in the process. Do give.
Or the sounds of our one-of-a-kind choirs proclaiming with their glorious voices the magic of the season. Do sing.
Or the many students, faculty and staff stuffing the outgoing slot with their holiday greetings (not unlike the young woman I observed yesterday almost drowning amid her pile of small packages and letters next to the FedEx window in the basement of Murray-Herrick, armed with her address book, checkbook and a very large roll of packing tape. She quietly hummed “Joy to the World” as she sat cross-legged on the cold tile floor, Doing Advent right there amid the hustle and bustle of our busy campus mailroom). Do connect.

How are you DOing this season?
Do Advent!

4 Responses

  1. Julie Saffrin

    Dr. Bruess,
    Thanks for the Do Advent reminder. Also, thank you so much for participating in our UST Morning Magazine Christmas Edition for Professor Scully’s class. You made the show lovely and the segment was great!

  2. Carol Bruess, St. Paul

    Note to readers: People are asking where someone might get a “Do Advent!” poster. They were created and distributed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (located at the College of St. Catherine) and Good Ground Press (www.goodgroundpress.com), 1-800-242-5533.

  3. Samarra

    What a lovely column! Look forward to 2009 with peace and blessings.

  4. Michael

    Thanks for this reminder about advent. Christmas has become very commercial lately, and we can easily lose sight of the true meaning of the season of Advent: preparing for the coming of the birth of Christ. O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel!