Advent is here again and along with it the rush and busy-ness of the Holiday season. This year, I challenge all of you to take a step back and return to a period of quiet reflection and reverence. I know that this hasn’t always been the easiest time to do that. With family and friend, get-togethers, gift shopping, and gift making it’s not always easy.
It’s so easy to be consumed by the spirit of the world- rushing back and forth between buying presents, making cookies, decorating, sending cards, planning travel that it’s easy to forget what we are called to do as Christians during this season.
Advent is a beautiful time of stillness, where we can contemplate the coming of our Lord. We must ready our hearts to receive Christ just as Mary and Joseph readied theirs.
Here are a few simple things we can do to make this advent more spiritually fruitful.
7 Ways to Begin Celebrating Advent with Grace
- Begin a Devotional
Advent is a great time to being a devotional, wether it’s a specific one for advent or picking up another spiritual book, or dedicating to read a different section of the Bible. God will lead you where your heart is most open to receive his grace at this time.
As a time of preparation for Christ, reading is a great way to nourish the soil of spirituality to be open to all that God has open for this season. The great thing about this is that reading just one or two pages a day is enough.
2. Strip Down to the Minimal
Do you really need to hand wrap every single present?
Is it absolutely necessary to spend every night shopping for more presents?
Do you or anyone else actually need 20 or more presents?
The point isn’t to tell you how to celebrate your holiday but to be prudent and concientious about how you spend your time. If you are finding yourself frazzled, take a step back and figure out what is a necessity and what is a distraction. It’s easy to believe that you have to do everything perfectly during this time but Christ was a baby born in a barn. If God himself is okay with that then maybe He’s also okay that sometimes things don’t turn out exactly as we want them to.
3. Dedicate Sundays as a “No Shopping Day”
It’s so easy to let the hectic schedules of the holiday season get in the way of our Sundays. Sundays are meant to be quite days of worship, where we spend more time with God and with each other. Try to dedicate Sundays as a no shopping day. This will force you to plan the rest of the week more conscientiously when it comes to buying presents but it is, also, built in time to do things with the family that will create a deeper bond. After Church, maybe watch a movie together or bake cookies or enlist the family to decorate. All family activities will give you something together to look forward to the closer Christmas gets. This is also a great time to pray together as a family or do a weekly devotion.
4. Give Something Up
I like taking this idea from Lent. If during Lent we give something up in preparation for Christ’s death and resurrection then I want to do the same for him during Christmas. This year, I want to give up something during my Advent that will remind me that this is a penitential season. This is the first year that I”ll be doing this so I’ll need to play with it and figure out what works best for me.
5. Infuse Your Holiday Season with Prayer
Before making cookies, before shopping, before going to a friends house a family for a get together.
Pray that this time will be fruitful for the spiritual development and reverence of the family.
Pray that those that will be benefitting with also benefit spiritually.
Pray for those without families or without cookie-nights.
Prayer lifts up the soul and unites us to God. What better way to celebrate Advent with grace?
6. Be Selective about Holiday Music
It’s so easy to become completely bombarded by music during the Holidays. The radio stations are blasting “Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when all we really need is some peace and quiet. Each of these songs have their place at parties and get togethers but in connecting to God I’d much prefer to listen to something that fixes my eyes on the Miracle of Christ’s birth.
My favorite holiday music create a sense of reverence in the house or car. Old fashioned Christmas hymn or piano is what I gravitate towards when I’m wrapping presents or baking cookies. Here are a few of my favorites.
Josh Groban re-released his quintessential Holiday album, Noël, earlier this year. This new release includes new songs and my all time favorite rendition of O, Holy Night.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary (one of my favorite orders) are finally releasing a Christmas album, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, that gives us a glimpse into their community life during the holidays. I’m sure I’ll have this on repeat wherever I go.
Piano Guys, a contemporary piano duet that re-imagines pop favorites, released a Christmas album entitled A Family Christmaswith well-known and loved hymns and songs. Definitely check it out!
7. Decorate Prudently
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to decorating for the holidays. I like to deocarate minimally. Instead of packing ever square inch of the house with boxes and decorations and santa Clauses, I want to place a few strategic things that remind me of the holiday.
Why should be inundate our homes with more and more decorations if they will cause us stress and anxiety. A wreathe on the door, a tree with simple decorations, an advent wreathe or one section with cards is enough for me. But most importantly, I want to decorate with the reverence of the Holiday in mind. Advent is a time of quiet contemplation.
Outside there maybe hustle and bustle but I want to make sure that the inside of my home feels like a sanctuary.
I hope you found all of that information useful! I absolutely love Advent and Christmas and hope that you can find a deeper more graceful and quite time to contemplate the mystery of Our Lord, Christ, in a Manger!
What are your tips and tricks to getting the most out of Advent?
Please share in the comments, I’d love to know!