Today marks the beginning of the Advent season! Advent is a time in which we, as Catholics, prepare and celebrate in anticipation of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Before coming back to the Catholic faith, I had always understood that Christmas is when Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. However, outside of that I didn’t know much more about Christmas or Advent. I viewed Christmas in a more commercialized light: shopping, gifts, baking, Christmas music, cooking, spending time with family, Christmas parties, etc... While all of those are certainly ways in which to celebrate the season, it was not until I came back to the Church that I finally understood how remarkable the Advent season is.
The Advent season lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas. In ways, Advent is like Lent when we are preparing ourselves for a coming of Jesus Christ. In the Lenten Season, we are preparing ourselves for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: Easter. During the Lenten season I knew to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays, to go to confession and make personal sacrifices. I’ve now learned that all those methods are also ways in which we can prepare ourselves during Advent for Christmas. During the Advent season, we prepare for Christmas with prayer, penance and fasting. Advent also gives us joyful times for celebration.
Here is how our family is preparing and celebrating this Advent.
1. Advent Wreath
“The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year in Advent people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.” (EWTN.com)
After dinner, our family gathers around our Advent Wreath and my husband will light the candle or candles. Then we read from our Advent book which includes prayers and meditations.
EWTN offers prayers online for each day of Advent, visit: http://www.ewtn.com/adven
2. Rooted In Hope
This year, I treated my mother and I to a pre-Christmas gift. The Advent Scripture journal, “Rooted in Hope" from Take Up and Read. The study began on November 30th, the Feast of Saint Andrew. Each night, we have been reading and working on the journal together.
“For each day, you'll find Scripture, a devotional essay, pages for lectio divina, and space to organize your days.” (Takeupandread.com)
3. The Little Christmas Angel
This Little Christmas Angel is something that my son has loved from the moment I opened the box! The Little Christmas Angel is an angel from Bethlehem during the days when Jesus was born. The little angel was “too small to make it to the stable to greet Baby Jesus.” So instead, she shares God’s message that “All Children are Good;” first in Bethlehem, and then in your house too, filling up every room with Christmas spirit. She only travels at night, while everyone is asleep, and you never know where you’ll find her the next morning! She keeps the whole family happy and involved in all the days leading up to Christmas.” (thelittlechristmasangel.com)
I especially love The Little Christmas Angel, because unlike the elf, the Little Christmas Angel has everything to do with the Birth of Jesus Christ and brings excitement and joy to the wonderful season of Advent. “The Little Christmas Angel takes the focus off consumerism and who’s naughty and who’s nice, and replaces it with the idea that ALL children are good, and Christmas fills us with joy that lasts all year long.” (thelittlechristmasangel.com)
4. Sacrament of Reconciliation
Last week, my family and I (our little love included) went to confession. When my husband and I got to the car after confession, we told each other how when we each took our turn confessing, we both asked our son if he wanted to confess too. He animatedly nodded that he, too, wanted to confess. I felt a little bad asking him since I was not expecting his excited reaction when I asked. Luckily, he is still easily distracted and quickly moved onto practicing his Sign of the Cross. I pray that he is always vigorous and “all systems go” about The Sacrament of Reconciliation for all his life. I pray that I draw inspiration from his reaction each time I need to confess.
As during Lent, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, is a very important aspect of our preparing for the apex of the season: Christmas. What better way to prepare for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, than to purify our souls? When Christmas Day comes, I would like to have ‘wiped my slate clean’ by confession and receiving absolution for my sins so that I can fully enjoy and celebrate the Birth of our Lord. Remember, when we confess our sins to a Priest, we are confessing to the Priest in Persona Christi, to Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, I am not one of the people that can go very long without food. I am extremely sensitive to not eating or drinking and become very ill if I go too long without food. Since abstaining from food or drink is not the only way to fast, I have found another way to fast for God.
Each Friday, I have decided to avoid eating meat. It is a very small, yet effective sacrifice that I offer up to God and I will continue abstaining from meat on Fridays long after the Advent season. There are other ways to fast, which do not include food. Those methods can be found here: catholicexchange.com/10-ways-can-fast
6. Advent Calendar
This is another favorite Advent celebration for my son. My husband’s Godmother gifted my son an Advent Calendar for Christmas last year and we have been looking forward to using it this year with him. What I love most about this Advent Calendar is that each day comes with a little book which contains a short Bible story, prayer, psalm or Christmas song. There is one book per day, and after we are finished with it my son especially likes hanging the book on a special, small Christmas tree. This Advent Calendar is certainly something that we will enjoy with him year after year.
While I was growing up, my mother would always make it a point to explain to me that there were some families and children that did not get to have presents at Christmas. We would also make sure to donate at Christmastime. Ever since then, I’ve tried to continue to donate during the Christmas season. When I was a teenager, my family and I were at the mall shopping for Christmas. There was a toy drive going on in the food court and I went and bought some toys for the drive.
Now, our Church puts up a Giving Tree each year in which parishioners can take a tag and go shopping for someone in our community that is in need. Just as the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus, we, too, should give gifts to our neighbors. 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:41)
For our family, the point of Advent is to slow down and focus on the real reason for the season: the coming of Jesus Christ. It is also a time for us to learn more about our rich Catholic faith and to engrave in our hearts and souls the true meaning of following Jesus Christ. Throughout this Advent season, these items mentioned above will allow me and my family to imagine and place ourselves ‘back in time’ to those special moments with our Blessed Mother. Saint Joseph and Jesus Christ.
How are you and your family preparing and celebrating this Advent? Please share with us on Facebook!
As always, thank you for reading. God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin Mary be with you always!