Advent is an exciting but busy season. It would be nice to be able to slow down and devote more time to prayer and traditions. However, most of us are busy people – we have work, school, or children with their own busy schedules. It’s hard to find the time to enjoy and celebrate the coming of Jesus.
What is Advent really all about?
It is very easy to feel out of sync with Advent. Slow down? Don’t set up and light the tree? Don’t sing Christmas carols until Christmas? How can one avoid all the shopping and gift-buying? It seems totally unrealistic, even Grinch-like.
But the Church is right – Advent is about slowing down. It’s about a world in darkness yearning for light and warmth. It’s about stepping back from the frantic pace of our lives – even if it is just for a few minutes – to think of how the world is and how we dream it could be as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, wait for his coming again in glory, and, in between, remember all the ways we encounter him everyday.
If we lived in a monastery, we might be able to devote every waking moment to prayer and ritual. But Advent is for busy people with work and school schedules, too. There are many small ways to enter into Advent and to let it grow in our hearts and enrich whatever else we do in this season.
Advent is for you!
Catholic Digest presents ideas to help you connect with Advent: prayers, activities, and ideas to celebrate any day during Advent with your family. However, these are only suggestions to get you started. The important thing is to catch a sense of how Advent can enrich your life, faith, and spirituality, and then find ways to celebrate that work for you. Advent, like all of Catholic life, is meant to slowly change and transform us, so that, more and more, we not only recognize Christ, but become the Body of Christ, living and active in our world.
Make your own Advent calendar or wreath
Use paper, glitter, glue, and branches to create a project that reminds you of the joy of Christ’s love all through the Advent season
Create a paper chain
Create one link for each day of the Advent season, but before linking it together, write an Advent Scripture quote or a good deed to do on each link. On each day of the Advent season, take off one link and reflect on the quote or do the good deed.
Make a place for prayer
Make a prayer table with a Bible and candle. Light the candle every evening with the traditional Evening Prayer acclamation: “Jesus Christ is the light of the world. A light no darkness can overpower.” Spend a few minutes in prayer thanking and praising God, in your own words, for life, for blessings, for love.
Daily prayers can be found at LivingWIthChrist.us.
Visit a farm
You don’t need to spend the night in a stable, but spending a day meetings a few sheep or a friendly donkey while taking in the sounds and smells of a farm can be a great way to connect with the reality of the incarnation. Jesus lived in our real world.
Have a family movie night
Gather your family and watch films that help you enter into the season of Advent. How does watching these films help you grow closer to the people behind the Bible accounts? How do they inspire you to live this Advent season?
Plant a seed
Put a seed in a tiny container, pot, or jar in a sunny window and watch it grow throughout Advent. As you water it, pray that God’s grace may water your soul, and his love and life may grow in your heart.
Discover a new culture through a crèche
Learn about the many styles of nativity scenes designed and created by different people and cultures from around the world. Take a trip to visit a display or find a book from the library. The Marian Library at the University of Dayton houses a collection of more than 1,300 nativity scenes – view some of that collection at https://udayton.edu/imri/art/creche-collection/index.php.
Celebrate Las Posadas (Dec. 16-24)
Gather friends or neighbors to celebrate Las Posadas, a custom of Mexican origin. Las Posadas is actually a novena that participants sing and act out, depicting Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter to deliver their baby. Beginning on December 16, Las Posadas is celebrated for nine nights, ending on Christmas Eve. For more information or for celebration ideas, visit http://www.mommymaestra.com/2010/12/posada-lesson-plans-crafts-activities.html .
Give books or blankets
Offer items that will contribute to the education and well-being of newborn babies in a nearby hospital. Include a note of comfort or congratulations to the child’s parents.
Add the traditional O Antiphons to your prayer
The O Antiphons are sung or recited every day from Dec. 17 to 23, each day highlighting a Scripture title for the Lord Jesus. Encourage your family to try their hands at creating different titles for Jesus that come from your own lives and thoughts (examples: “Gentle Healer;” “Loving Friend”). Create an ornament for each of the O Antiphons and for the titles you’ve created to hang on your tree.
Celebrate your parents and parental figures
Mary and Joseph faced many challenges when they said “yes” to God in accepting Jesus. They also gave Jesus a home, food, and lots of love. How have your parents, grandparents, or other parental figures made a difference in your life? Tell them how much you appreciate them, whether with a card or letter, a special get-together, or a gift that reflects your gratitude in a personal way.
Bake holiday bambino bread
Make something special to share with family and friends this Christmas. This bread recipe (by Father Dominic Garramone, OSB) involves braiding the dough so the finished product resembles the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. Celebrate the arrival of Jesus by baking and sharing this unique holiday treat. Click here for the recipe.