5 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

(Advent is only a couple of weeks away so I thought I would get a head start and give you some ideas to think about before it officially begins.)

Do you ever take on too much during the Advent/Christmas season and then feel overburdened? If so, I can totally relate. I wanted to make Advent so special for my family that I would get completely overzealous about it. It was “go big or go home” for me! I would make all sorts of resolutions and added all these prayers and activities; however, instead of making Advent meaningful, they left me drained or guilty for not fitting in all the things I had planned. Indeed, these activities became ‘just one more thing to do’ before Christmas.

Image by hansjoergrichter50 (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Over the last few years, I started learning my lesson and I’ve scaled way back in how I celebrated Advent. It has become a time for revisiting the basics. Therefore, rather than  adding on tons of prayers or activities, I am only adding on a couple of things and doing them as well as possible. My goal is to spend Advent in a way that truly prepares my heart for the coming of Christ. And I want that for you, too. If you are looking to making Advent meaningful this year, consider trying a tip or two from this list.

I. Take Care of Most of the Material things early.

Every year I say I am going to get everything done early so that I can focus on the spirit of the Season but I never actually follow through. This year, I am actually using the Christmas Planner I created last year and it is already making a difference.

Of course, you don’t have to use my Christmas planner. You probably know what you have/want to do. Why not start now and put a dent in your to-do list? Can you order your Christmas cards now? How about getting started with your Christmas shopping? Maybe you can create your cooking/baking shopping list now and start buying any needed ingredients?

The point is, do as much preplanning and doing now so that once Advent/Christmas really goes into high gear you will be ahead of the game.

2. Go to Daily Mass Twice a Week (or more).

In years past, I would commit to going to daily mass and would fail every year. As much as I would love to make daily Mass, it just isn’t realistic for this time in my life. Therefore, I have decided to commit to going to daily Mass twice a week. That is definitely doable.

Seriously, if you don’t do anything else for Advent, do your best to make it to Mass – even if it is only one extra day a week. I have said it before and I will say it again because, as Catholics, there is no greater thing we can do than to receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. The Holy Mass is the summit and center of our faith.

3. Go to Confession.

I won’t lie. I love going to Confession. 🙂 I know that sounds crazy but I feel for light and free after going to Confession. But, as much as I try to go regularly, life happens and I don’t make it as often as I could. Truly, Confession is good for the soul, so even if you don’t love it like I do, please try to make Confession at least once during the Advent season. I promise, you won’t regret it!

I am not sure about your area but there should be several Advent penance services going on during the Advent season. If you can, why not try to attend? The services are usually beautiful and knowing others are making Confession as well can be an incentive. If you can’t make a penance service, check your Church’s bulletin for their regular Confession  schedule. If that doesn’t work, most priest offer confession by special appointment. Cleansing and strengthening your soul is a wonderful way for preparing for Christmas! (Need a little help going to Confession? Here are some tips on How to Make a Good Confession.)

4. Use an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe.

If you have young children, they usually love the Advent calendar because they get to eat a piece of candy every day! Believe it or not, though, they have Advent Calendars for adults too. What is nice about these calendars is that they usually include a little scripture verse to reflect on and they don’t take up a lot of time. A minute or two at most.

The same goes for the Advent Wreathe. It is only a matter of lighting a candle and maybe adding a little prayer. It is a no-brainer. it is a small thing but it can make a big difference in appreciating the reason for the season.

5. Journal.

If you know me, you know writing is in my blood and I journal regularly. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started creating journals in the first place. It may sound crazy, like my love for Confession, but having my own little space to write out my thoughts, dreams, and struggles is important to my spiritual welfare. In fact, writing is my preferred way of communication and it is how I best “talk” to God. Can you relate or is it just me?!

That’s why I created an Advent journal a while back. Once can never have too many journals and I like having a separate journal for Advent. Unlike my regular prayer journal, which I use as a “regular” journal too, I use the Advent Prayer Journal strictly for prayer and reflections about the scripture readings throughout Advent. It helps me to go deeper into the mysteries we are celebrating during this holy season.

Whether you use my journal, or creat your own, or just use loose-leaf paper, journaling is a wonderful way to make Advent meaningful. There is something therapeutic and special about handwriting your thoughts and prayers out on physical paper. Who knows, maybe the habit of journaling will extend long after the Advent season and that would be wonderful, too!

Bonus Idea!

If you have some extra time to spare, why not join in on a virtual Advent retreat? I will be “conducting” the retreat via Facebook Live and doing weekly short meditations on one of the readings from the week. It may be from the Sunday readings or the daily readings, depending on where the Holy Spirit leads. I will also be including a complimentary copy of the pdf version of the Advent Prayer Journal (normally $10) and other guides and goodies. Best of all, it is free. The only “cost” is being a member of my Facebook Group where the retreat will be held. 🙂

I pray that this Advent/Christmas season is the most magical, beautiful, prayerful, and wonderful season you have ever had. May God bless you and bring you ever closer to His merciful heart. And may our dear Blessed Mother intercede for you and all your intentions!

5 Ideas for Advent

Can  you believe that Advent begins on Sunday, November 27?? That is only 2 1/2 weeks away! That’s not a lot of time to think about how you want prepare spiritually for Christmas.

In the past, I would get so caught up with the material preparations of Christmas that I would get overwhelmed and lose focus on the the meaning of Christmas. I would get stressed, lose sleep, and generally just wish that the whole season would be done and over. (Sound familiar?)

Image by geralt (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Image by geralt (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public domain

Then, a couple of years ago, I decided it was time to take stock and make some decisions to help me focus on the purpose of Advent which, of course, is to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The changes made a huge difference for me and so I will follow the same plan.

Now, for me, preparing for Advent (or Lent) isn’t necessarily about adding more things to my schedule. It is about making the most of my current schedule…So here are the 5 things I plan to do this year:

I. Take Care of Most of the Material things early.

Yes, I am one of those ober-organized people who like to do things in advance. 🙂 For Instance, I already have my shopping list and my card list written. I also hope to have my cards ready to send out by the time Advent starts and some of the gifts purchased. If all goes well, I should be done with all my Christmas shopping before the second week of Advent!

As for baking, I plan to do some baking early and freeze it all. Most baking goods, especially cookies, freeze really well. However, for some items, I will have to wait to last-minute so they are baked fresh. 🙂

II. Go to Daily Mass Twice a Week.

In the past, I would commit to go to daily mass and fail every year. It just isn’t realistic for this time in my life. Therefore, for this year, I am going to commit to going to daily Mass twice a week. That is definitely doable.

III. Fast Twice a Week.

Fasting isn’t just for Lent! Technically, Advent is a penitential season and this was especially true pre-Vatican II. In fact, the Church still encourages us to fast regularly all throughout the year even though it is not an official precept of the Church.

There are many benefits of fasting and I have wanted to get into this practice for a while. Therefore, I figure Advent would be a great time to finally get started. I will be fasting Wednesdays and Fridays.

IV. Use an Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe.

Of course, the Advent Calendar and Advent Wreathe are perfect activities to do with children. I will do the Advent Calendar with Andrew each morning and light the Advent Wreathe candle during each meal as a family.

V. Journal.

If you know me, you know writing is in my blood and I journal regularly. In fact, that is one of the reasons I started creating journals in the first place. It may sound crazy but having my own little space to write out my thoughts, dreams, and struggles is important to my spiritual welfare. Writing is my preferred way of communication and it is how I best “talk” to God. Can you relate or is it just me?!

Last year, I created an Advent journal but it was too late to actually use for the Advent season. So, for this year, I will actually be using the journal I created. What I like most about the journal is that it is simple and has a lot of lines and writing space. Each page has a scripture verse that (sometimes loosely) correlates to the daily Mass readings and then lines for writing. It is not a guided journal but some days I will use the scripture as a starting point for prayer and some days I will just write for the heart. It also includes blank pages for drawing and/or pasting and has a section for prayer requests.

If you are interested, you can find more about the journal and purchase it here. Also, for a limited time, I am offering the PDF version of the journal for only $5 bucks! It is regularly $10 so it is half-price but it won’t last long. The sale ends on Friday, December 2, 2016.

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For more ideas for Advent, here are 10 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful and an Advent Meditation.

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Tweetable: 5 Ideas for Advent

Advent Prayer Journal for Women Cover

Ten Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

(Repost with revisions)

The other day, Colleen from Carpe Diem, Gorgeous!, asked me in the comments how I celebrate Advent and make it meaningful in our family. I answered her; but felt that my answer wasn’t enough, so I decided to do a blog post about it.

10 Ways to Make Advent Meaningful

Image by hansjoergrichter50 (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

In the past, I was overzealous with my Advent plans. I would make all sorts of resolutions and added all these prayers and activities; but, instead of making Advent meaningful for me, they left me drained or guilty for not doing all the things I had planned to do. Indeed, these activities became just one more thing to be done before Christmas. Over the last few years, I’ve scaled way back and have used Advent as a time for revisiting the basics. Instead of adding on prayers and prayers or activity upon activity, I’ve tried to do just a few things, but do them well. I want to spend Advent in a way that truly prepares my heart for the coming of Christ.

Now, a list of ten things for Advent may seem contradictory to what I just wrote above; but in reality, they are many of the things that many of us do as Catholics anyway. It’s a matter of focusing on what we already are doing, and doing them well, rather than going through the motions.  So, here are some suggestions that I pray will help make your preparations for Christmas more meaningful and fruitful:

1. Go to daily Mass.  If you can, try and get to Mass a few days during the week. The liturgy is so rich and beautiful during the Advent Season. If you can’t get to mass, watching it on EWTN is the next best thing.

2. Go to Confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation). There should be several Advent penance services within the next few weeks. If you can, why not try to attend? If not, check your Church’s bulletin for when their regular Confession  schedule. Cleansing and strengthening your soul is a wonderful way for preparing for Christmas. (Need a little help going to Confession? Here are some tips on How to Make a Good Confession.)

3. Spend time with Scripture. What better way to prepare for Christmas than to spend some time praying the Scriptures? The book of Isaiah is particularly relevant for Advent. Make it a family event. I am trying to read a few verses from the Bible each morning at breakfast with Andrew.

4. Pray the rosary. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of praying the rosary, Advent is a great time for picking it back up. The Joyful Mysteries are said on Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays of Advent and Christmas. Don’t have time to say a whole rosary?  Even a decade of the rosary each day is better than nothing. 😉 Again, get the family involved and say the rosary together each evening.

5. Giving Tree. Most churches host a giving tree to help needy families. I’m sure that in this economy there are many families who may go without basic necessities, let alone Christmas presents. If you have the means, please consider picking up a tag. The gifts aren’t expensive and may bring joy to someone in need.

6. Advent Wreathe. I know lots of people who put the Advent Wreathe on their table and forget about it. What we do is light the candle(s) when we say our grace at supper and then use that as a starting point for talking about what Advent and Christmas is really all about. ( I tell ya, listening to Andrew’s take on the Annunciation, the Birth of Christ, the Angels, etc. is quite adorable! There is nothing better than the innocence of a child!)

7. Advent Calendar. You can buy several nice ones that are very simple or very elaborate. Our church actually passes out free ones for the children. We have it pasted at Andrew’s eye level and I have him read it and do the activity every day.

8. Fasting. As you may already know, Advent is a penitential season, albeit not as stringent as Lent, and fasting is a penitential act. In fact, I recently learned that in some Church traditions, many followed (and some still follow) the St. Philip’s Fast which would be from the day after the feast of St. Philip (Nov. 14)  until December 24th. If you can, try fasting once or twice a week and use that time you would be eating in prayer.

9. Lessons and Carols. Have you ever been to a Lessons and Carols service? I had the opportunity of participating once when I was living in Ohio. It is magnificent! It is vaguely reminiscent of the Easter Vigil readings in that there are nine scripture readings interspersed with songs; however, it is much more than that. If there’s a Lessons and Carols service near you, I highly recommend that you make the effort to attend. You won’t be disappointed! If you can’t, the USCCB has a podcast of the Lessons and Carols here.

10. Mental Prayer (or Contemplation). If you can spare five or ten minutes, try and spend them before the Lord in quietness. We are so busy and unfocused that when we pray, we talk at God rather than listening to Him. (I’m talking about myself here!) How can we hear Him speak to our hearts or be filled with His Spirit if we don’t listen? Maybe, instead of sitting in front of the television we can hold off for a few minutes to spend some quality time with the Lord, letting Him speak to our hearts. 🙂

One more thing: If you are feeling overwhelmed and overburdened  about all the things you need to do before Christmas, perhaps you need to re-evaluate things. Do you really have to accept every invitation you get? Can you delegate some of your responsibilities? Can you buy one less gift this year or not be so hung up on getting the biggest and/or the best gift? So often we want to control everything and/or make everything “just so” which puts extra stress and pressure on ourselves. Maybe the secret to finding meaning this Advent is letting go…

What are you doing or what suggestions do you have to making the rest of this Advent meaningful? Do share in the comments!

You can print a pdf version of this list (no opt-in required) here: 10 Way to Make Advent Meaningful

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(Linked to Top Ten Tuesday and Works for me Wednesday.)