Don't Read Ahead - How to Advent Well

"Don't read ahead" by Kate Taliaferro (

Photo by Karolina Grabowska (2014) via Pexels, CC0 Public Domain. Text added by author.


Teaching my children to read has been one of the greatest privileges, highlights and most stressful things I have undertaken as a mother. So far I’ve got 2 down, 2 (or more depending on God’s plan for our family) to go. It is an incredible day when they first look up with joy and delight at their first words, read aloud all on their own. This year it was my daughter Rosie’s turn to have the world of words opened to her and recently she helped me make an important discovery.

We were working on a little story about a boy who takes a friend’s bike without asking. He then proceeds to fall, scrape his knee and bend the bike. What should he do? Does he lie and hide the bike or is he truthful? How does his friend respond? Now this story is a grand total of about 20 sentences, maybe. So I had skimmed and re-read it at least 5 times by the time she was on the 3rd sentence. When we got to the moment when the boy takes the bike, Rosie looked up at me and said, “Oh no! He shouldn’t do that!” Then, when he falls, she squealed, “No! What’s going to happen??”

I had to stop myself from automatically telling her what was going to happen. She isn’t capable of skimming yet. She truly had no idea where the story was going because she was reading one word at a time. There’s no skipping ahead, no looking for keywords.

This moment caused me to pause. I have always been a quick reader. When I read I am always skimming. However, if I’m really into a book or it is in a particularly exciting moment, I catch myself reading ahead only to have to go back to where I actually was. It’s a bit like cheating really, skip a few paragraphs to see what happens ultimately to the main character, then backtrack to find out how.

As we can see all around us, Christmas is in full swing in the stores, on the radio and TV. In a way, it is as if we are skimming ahead the way I do when the story gets good. Instead of living in the moment of the day, be it Thanksgiving, the First Sunday of Advent or any other, we are already at the end of the story. There are so many beautiful moments, and stories of Advent to be celebrated, meditated upon and savored.

I’ve gathered a few resources that can help you, as they say, Advent well. These are all designed to help you focus in on the whole purpose of Advent – to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. We choose, against cultural norms, to pace ourselves in our celebration of Christmas. I’m not saying all Christmas music before Dec. 25 is terrible, or breaking out the kids nativity or some holly will ruin your Advent. However, it is wise to exercise some moderation and discipline while we are striving to properly orient ourselves toward Jesus’ coming, both as the child and as Savior of the world.

Advent Resources for you (some free, some not, all good)

Advent Journal – This is a free printable Lectio Divina journal made for Advent. I have selected a passage or verse from the readings of day to use for lectio meditation and prayer.

Every Sacred Sunday – A brand-new Mass journal. This is a printed journal which includes all the Sunday readings for the whole year, starting with Advent this year. Each page has space for journaling or note taking during the homily, intentions and planning a way forward to carry your insights through the week.

Bishop Barron Advent Reflections – Though Bishop Barron’s Advent Reflections printed booklet is sold out, you can still sign up for the reflections to be emailed to you each day during Advent, and beyond.

Magnificat Advent Companion – The Magnificat Advent Companion is such a lovely resource because it not only has reflections, but also additional prayers, blessings and ideas for celebrating Advent in your home.

Blessed is She – Blessed is She, which has daily Scripture reflections, also has a printed Advent Journal which ties Scripture, prayer and journaling together in a lovely retreat-like experience right in your own home. Even if you don’t go with the journal, the daily Scripture reflections based on the day’s readings is a great way to start the day. Gospel Reflections – All through the year hosts Gospel reflections on the Gospel of the day. A great Advent commitment would be to carve out a few minutes before breakfast or during your lunch break to read the Gospel and the reflection. Sign up to receive these via email.

Be Merry: How to Advent Without Losing Your Mind by Sterling Jaquith – This book is a great read for anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, underwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or simply wishes to savor more joyful moments in the Advent season.

Advent Resources for your family

The Mass Box: Advent Edition – Our family LOVES the Mass Box. My kids look forward to their craft and the video with Clare and her family each week. Some of the crafts they have been so excited for they have brought them to Mass to show our priest. Included in the Advent Box are candles for your home Advent wreath.

Family Rosary – Our own Erin McCole Cupp recently wrote a post about some tips and suggestions for incorporating a family rosary into your day, especially for Advent.

Jesse Tree Ornaments – Nancy over at the blog Do Small Things With Love has a lovely pdf download for Jesse Tree ornaments that your family can make to help tell the stories of Jesus’ lineage.

The Strangers at the Manger by Lisa Hendey – This is such a great book because it is about the whole story, not just the nativity scene. It is perfect for reading aloud to younger kiddos. Or you could ask elementary readers to do a dramatic reading of a chapter or two for the family.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Many other contributors may also be hosting Advent reflections or events, so keep your eyes peeled. We have so many opportunities to Advent well if we are conscious about including them into our celebrations and preparations.

Read our other Advent 2017 articles.

Copyright 2017 Kate Taliaferro


About Author

Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mom of 4. She has a Masters in Religious Education and tries to find God's presence in all parts of her day, be it cooking, cleaning or just the everyday ordinary. She enjoys homeschooling, stitching crafts and finding cheerios between the couch cushions. She blogs at Daily Graces.

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