This year, the Year of Faith, we begin Advent on Sunday, December 2. On this day, which marks the beginning of the new liturgical year of the Church, we change to the “C” cycle of readings, which focus on the gospel of Saint Luke. This gospel contains most of what we know about Mary and is a great companion for prayer during Advent.
The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning coming. During Advent we recall the history of God’s people and reflect on how the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled with the birth of the Christ Child. In Advent we are not only preparing to remember the birth of Christ but we are also preparing for Christ’s Second Coming. In this four-week season, we look forward to when He will come again, and we pray we will be awake and watchful so He will not find us asleep.
The very first day of Advent, make sure you have an Advent wreath. If you don’t already own an Advent wreath, it is simple to get a wreath of greenery (real or artificial) and place three purple candles and one pink candle in or around it.
At dinner time each evening, light one candle for each week of Advent that we are in. You can say a simple phrase, like “Come Lord Jesus” or you can choose to use one of the readings from Mass for that Sunday. Have the wreath out in a conspicuous place, and it will remind you of the season every time you see it. For more information on the Advent wreath and prayers for Advent, visit wf-f.org/ADVPray.html.
Here are some other ideas to help stay awake in the Christian life and live the faith more fully in Advent:
• Get an Advent calendar for the whole family. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops offers one that includes daily readings, prayer suggestions, and action ideas. See usccb.org/advent.
• Start off with a good confession — the best confession of your life. Really prepare for this encounter with Christ through the priest. Pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament to the Holy Spirit to reveal your sins to you. Make a firm amendment to avoid these sins in the future. Bring your family to confession.
• Practice detachment. Go through closets and drawers and give away generously to the poor. If you haven’t used it/worn it in over a year, give it away. Challenge your children to go through their toys and give some away to charities that can reuse them.
• Give up some activities in order to give yourself some peace. Consider turning down one of the many holiday parties or don’t bake as many cookies and sweets. You might reduce the quantity of decorations in and around your home, or have the kids skip a sports practice to have a family night.
• Spend an evening walking around the neighborhood or a downtown park looking at the lights. Go with your children or grandchildren and see the season through their eyes. Sing Christmas songs as you walk — especially “O Come all ye Faithful.”
• Send religious Christmas cards with religious postage stamps.
• If you write a Christmas letter, don’t just fill it with details of your vacation trips. Use the annual correspondence to remind your friends and family just how special they are in the eyes of God or about the impact of the Incarnation.
• Welcome the “stranger” who is sitting near you at Mass.
• Adopt a family from the parish giving tree or at St. Vincent de Paul and shop for them.
• Place lights on the outside of your house and in your windows as a reminder that Christ is the Light of the World. Let people see your Christianity from the street!
• Make a Jesse Tree: The Jesse Tree is a way of remembering Jesus’ roots in Israel. Hang from the branches each day a symbol of an important point in Israel’s history. (For more information, see the Jesse Tree article at crivoice.org/jesse.html).
• Learn more about our great faith by listening to one CD/MP3 a week during Advent. Hear inspiring talks by great Catholic speakers such as Blessed Mother Teresa, Scott Hahn, Father Larry Richards, Father Robert Barron, and others on the go while you’re driving, cleaning the kitchen, etc. Also, a CD of the Month Club subscription makes a great gift, CLICK HERE TO JOIN.