Advent starts this Sunday, December 1, and unfortunately it always seems to be a season that is rushed through on the push towards Christmas. With presents to be bought, cards to mail out, decorations to be hung, and Christmas parties to attend, the season goes by in a blink, and the quiet anticipation of Advent is completely ignored. I know for me, the addition of my sons’ birthdays during this time of year (December 14 and January 6) has added to the craziness. And this year in particular, with a move to a different state looming in mid-January, there is added stress. For all of these reasons, I am trying to make this Advent, and hopefully future ones, a more fruitful time of year. Here are a few things you can add to your Advent season (But please remember that you do not have to do all of these. Do what you can and what works for your family.):
*Starting December 1, read one chapter of Luke’s gospel every day. There are 24 chapters in his gospel, so by Christmas Eve you will have an entire account of the life of Christ, including his birth narrative.
*Try to make it to confession during the season. Hopefully your church, or one nearby, will be offering more time the usual for confession during Advent (it is considered a penitential season after all), or perhaps they have a confession service where priests from around the diocese come and hear confessions.
*See if any local churches are doing a Lessons & Carols service. This is a beautiful way to prepare for the coming of our Lord.
*The Advent Wreath. The circle of evergreens and four candles: three purple to represent the penitential nature of the season, and one pink to celebrate the joy in anticipation of the birth of Christ. One by one, each candle is lit in the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, until on the fourth Sunday, all are lit. Each week, different prayers are said to go along with the lighting of the candle.
*The Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree is taken right from Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” The tree is hung with ornaments that represent people and events from the Old Testament (and a few from the New Testament as well), leading up to the birth of Jesus. They are meant to show Jesus’ roots and are based on the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew’s gospel.
*An Advent playlist: Create a playlist of music with songs and hymns devoted specifically to the Advent season, including: Ave Maria; Come Thou Long Expected Jesus; Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming; O Come, O Come Emmanuel; The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came; and The King Shall Come.
*Here are a few interesting podcasts that are worth the listen if you have the time:
Christ in the Stars, Part I, The Lanky Guys
Christ in the Stars, Part II, The Lanky Guys
The Liturgical Calendar (3/3), The Art of Simple (*Note: This is a Catholic and an Anglican talking about ways to celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons)
*Books: For my sons, in general I keep a basket of books in our living room, most of which are based on the season or month of the year. For December, the basket will be filled with books on Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Lucy, and Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This Advent, I am going to try and read Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Pope John Paul II; A Season of Little Sacraments: Christmas Commotion, Advent Grace by Susan H. Swetnam; The Word Made Flesh: The Meaning of the Christmas Season by Pope John Paul II; and The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas by William J. Bennett. Yes, I am trying to read four books during the busiest time of year. But, fortunately, none are more than 150 pages long, so this is completely doable.
So, there you have it. Hopefully this little list helps you have a more joyful and more fulfilling Advent Season!