Advent begins in about three weeks. Can you believe it?
And we all know the next three weeks will go by quickly, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with loved ones and possibly get a jump start on our Christmas shopping.
Therefore, now is the time to decide how we want to spend Advent, so we are not frantically figuring it out at the last minute. (Please trust me, I’m writing from experience here!)
On top of it being a busy time of year, many of us already feel overwhelmed, weary, and behind with “normal” life. Adding numerous holiday tasks to our to-list feels impossible. And at the same time, we want Advent to be more than a countdown to Christmas. We want to pray, prepare, and journey with the Holy Family to Bethlehem.
My encouragement to you — and me — is to remember that Christ came down at Christmas time to save the weary ones. So, it is important to carve out a little safe haven where we can find rest, refreshment, and renewal, before we serve those we love, through our Christmas preparations.
To make this simple and not add more things to do, here are five simple Advent ideas that can bring comfort and joy to our hearts this season. None of them require a lot of time and energy, but all of them will keep us prayerful and focused on Jesus this Advent.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
The Advent wreath is a central part of the season. And it makes a connection between home and church, with Advent wreaths prominently set up in both places. In my family, we place ours on the kitchen table and light it during dinner. We light it during our family Rosary on Sunday evenings, too. Sometimes we say extra prayers from a few family devotionals we have, but often we simply enjoy watching the light of Christ increase, as the winter nights grow darker.
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him …” (Isaiah 11:1-2)
I didn’t grow up with the Jesse Tree, but I have learned to really enjoy it with my children. Our family owns a lovely set of ornaments by Jesse Tree Treasures that we hang on a small tree. Not only do my children look forward to this timeless tradition, I enjoy revisiting the story of Salvation History and why Christ came down to save us—once and for all.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (2 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Devotionals make daily prayer doable, especially during busy seasons, because a little prayer everyday makes a big impact. There are several beautiful Advent devotionals available. Blessed Is She offers one each year. The women at Take Up and Read have an Advent study this year as well. In addition, Magnificat publishes an Advent Companion, too.
St. Andrew Novena
“God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening ‘Do it again’ to the moon.” (G.K. Chesterton)
If God exults monotony, then He appreciates our repetitious prayers, too. Can’t you just hear Him saying, “Do it again,” to us?
There is something soothing about repetition in prayer, too. Like the Rosary, the familiarity is comforting. The St. Andrew Novena, then, is a perfect prayer companion for those who need simple, quiet, and steady. Beginning on Nov. 30 and ending Dec. 24, this prayer is powerful, not only for its miracles, but in how it focuses us on Jesus.
“Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good! Sing to his name, for it brings joy!” (Psalm 135:3)
Christmas carols have always been a favorite part of the holidays for me. I usually don’t mind that they start playing them on the radio way too early. But sometimes I need less jingle and more calm. Two albums that I really enjoy are Christy Nockel’s The Thrill of Hope, and Advent at Ephesus by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Both set a lovely mood to keep my heart fixed on Jesus, in the midst of the busyness.
What are your simple, prayerful plans for Advent?
Copyright 2018 Sarah Damm