“Are you ready for Christmas?”
I dread that question. After all, who is ever really ready for the cooking, cleaning, packing, traveling, buying, wrapping, and even fighting that fill up our typical preparations for the holidays? Not me.
The good news is that Advent doesn’t have to be that way. By being intentional and proactive, we can make Advent a time, not of stress and restlessness, but of peace, spiritual growth, and genuine readiness for the coming of Jesus.
Let’s seize the season of Advent! Here are 5 ways to get the most out of those precious days leading up to Christmas.
- Practice waiting. That’s what Advent is, right? A time of waiting? This means if you resent the wait, you won’t get the most out of Advent.
If you’re like me you’re not good at waiting, so you’ll have to practice. Place yourself in situations where you have to put off what you want. Choose the longest check-out line at the grocery store. Wait until the third week of Advent to put up your Christmas tree. Be the last one to prepare a plate for dinner.
Waiting teaches us to put others first and it helps us to live in the present moment, instead of anxiously awaiting the next thing.
- Add one new prayer. During Advent, we’re preparing for the coming of the Lord. But, in prayer this happens every day! God comes to us, we come to Him, and we experience communion with the long-awaited Savior of the world. This means that bolstering your prayer life, even a little bit, is a great way to get into the Advent spirit.
Try adding a new prayer to your daily routine. Start a routine if you don’t have one yet! It doesn’t have to be anything difficult. One Advent custom involves praying the “O Antiphons,” which are seven titles of the Messiah that are prayed in the evening, from Dec. 17 to Dec. 23. Alternatively, you could pray an “Act of Contrition” before going to sleep, or say to God when you wake up in the morning, “I offer you this day, make it a great one!”
- Create a sacred space. A sacred space is an area in your home that is set aside for prayer. During the busyness of life, this space reminds us: Prayer is important. God is near. There is peace here.
Your sacred space can be as small as a table in the corner. During Advent, cover it with a violet tablecloth and put your wreath there. You could also include a standing crucifix, an open bible, a saint statue, and some small icons.
When Advent is over, don’t take it all down. Change out a few things and you can use it to celebrate all the liturgical seasons!
- Share your faith. Faith grows even as it is given away. This means that, while talking about your faith may not come naturally, it’s a great way to grow spiritually during Advent.
Start small. This Advent, be on the lookout for one person a week you could share your faith with. If someone is sad or overwhelmed, pray with them right then and there. Do a kind deed for someone and then make sure they know that Jesus loves them. Pray before meals at a restaurant. Make the Sign of the Cross in public.
Religion is typically a taboo subject when families get together. But if you share your faith with love, you have the potential to warm hearts and grow in your own spirituality.
- Serve others. While you’re on the lookout for people to share your faith with, also look for ways to be kind, especially to strangers.
Service is perfect for Advent. At a time when consumerism and materialism attempt to focus us in on ourselves, acts of service, kindness, and charity turn our gaze towards the other. Nothing relieves depression and anxiety like service. That’s just how love works.
The sky’s the limit on how you can do this. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Buy a present from your parish’s Giving Tree for those in need. Visit an elderly neighbor and ask about her favorite Christmas memories. Help your parents decorate their house. Random acts of kindness make Advent really Advent.