FaithZette

Advent: A Unique, Sacred and Giving Time of Year

Here are faithful preparation tips for all of us for the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Most consider the weeks ahead to be the beginning of the holiday season, with Thanksgiving and Christmas at the center.

But few focus on Advent as the spiritual underpinnings of the season.

Advent, which has just begun (December 2 this year), is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

Here are some internal and external tips in preparation for this unique and sacred time of year.

Internal Preparation
1.) Make more time for prayer. With the craziness of shopping, cooking, traffic, Christmas cards, long lines, difficult family moments and more ahead, you need to let your soul breathe in the fresh air of God’s grace.

Go to a church and simply hang out with Jesus, make space for some “prayer corner” time first thing in the morning, before you begin your day, have little conversations with God in moments of greater stress, asking him to help you navigate through the mess and chaos that awaits … simply go to God and get away.

2.) Meditate on those scriptural passages that refer to the coming of Christ: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the birth of the baby Jesus in a cave. Reflect on how much He gave up for us and how much He loved us. He was so happy and comfortable in heaven, and He consciously came down to show us the way and reconcile us with His Father through His selfless lifestyle, His passion, death and resurrection.

Jesus in the reason of the season. Let Him know you are grateful.

Related: Without Patience, ‘We Will Learn Less in Life’

3.) December 25th is the birthday of Jesus. Start wrapping the present that He most desires from you: maybe a little more patience with your spouse, or with a difficult co-worker? Maybe some hidden acts of kindness, like unstacking the dishwasher or folding the clothes when nobody is watching? Or maybe putting the spotlight on others during your conversation time and taking it off yourself?

Ask Jesus what He wants from you.

External Preparation
1.) Of course, a Christmas tree with a nativity scene and colorful decorations around the house can be helpful for creating a spiritual and festive environment. St. John Paul II called the Christmas tree a symbol of Christ.

“This very ancient custom exalts the value of life, as in winter what is evergreen becomes a symbol of undying life, and it reminds Christians of the ‘tree of life,’ an image of Christ, the supreme gift of God to humanity.”

2.) Advent wreaths can also be a helpful tool to prepare for Christmas. A different candle is lit each Sunday and is accompanied with a specific scriptural passage during the four Sundays of Advent. These are easy to order online and keeps the family focused, as this generally sits on the dinner table or nearby.

3.) Parents can consider rewarding their children’s good deeds with a small pile of straw that they can place in the nativity scene, so Jesus has a comfortable bed when He finally arrives on Christmas Eve.

4.) Many families host Christmas parties and invite everyone to sing Christmas carols after dessert as a way of bringing in the season. Look for ways to make these gatherings truly “Christmas” parties — and not just another dinner party.

5.) This is also a beautiful time to give back and do some act of kindness for those in need. I recall one family from D.C. that decided to give up their Christmas presents one year and donate the money they would have spent to improving the grounds of a local orphanage. They also physically went to this orphanage to do manual labor for a full day.

Let’s put Christ back into Christmas and let’s start now, from the inside out, with lots of love and appreciation for the incredible gift of our faith.

So beautiful. Perhaps scaling back the number of gifts under the tree might help put the focus more on Christ’s birthday and less on gift-giving to each other.

Let’s put Christ back into Christmas and let’s start now, from the inside out, with lots of love and appreciation for the incredible gift of our faith.

Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.