‘TIS THE SEASON OF ADVENT, Y’ALL! This is probably my favorite liturgical season — can’t you tell I am just a little bit excited? It’s December, it’s cold outside (well, unless you live in the south like me), you’ve got your cozy sweater on, the Christmas trees are up, the lights are on, the cocoa is served, the church is decked out, the Advent wreath is up by the altar, maybe there’s even a nativity scene set up with one noticeable figure missing in the middle… All these changes signal the start of a very important season, but in order to get the best out of Advent, we have to do a little bit more than decking the halls and putting the good silver out. Here’s a few simple ways to get started:
Celebrate the Season
Sometimes it’s really easy for us to skip from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and the best way to focus on Advent is to start up some traditions! Set up an Advent wreath in your home and have a little candle-lighting ceremony — make the Sundays of Advent or saints’ feast days into a special occasion by hosting a little potluck with your friends and trying out some traditional Advent recipes, listen to some Advent music (distinct from Christmas music people!)… Y’all honestly most of my ideas here come from the wonderful gift of the interwebs — this is where all those Catholic insta-bloggers and my mindless Pinterest scrolling skills come in handy, amirite? You get the idea.
Dive into Daily Prayer
When the weather gets colder, all I want to do is stay inside wrapped in a blanket with a cozy sweater on, a book in one hand and a mug of warm goodness in the other… and, well, that’s exactly where you’ll find me at any chance I get during this Advent season. Spending time every day is prayer is the most important part of any spiritual journey, and while I’ll still go to the Chapel to pray in Adoration, my favorite way to make time to pray (especially when the holiday schedule gets more and more busy) is to simply curl up in a comfy chair at home with my Bible and journal.
Spend time sitting with Scripture and allow Jesus to speak to your heart, and give yourself time to journal your prayers, thoughts, and the ways Jesus is speaking to you. If you’re unsure where to start, a great and easy way to dive into this liturgical season is by doing a guided daily reflection through an Advent devotional. Be sure to check out “Awaken Hope,” an Advent companion from Life Teen.
Ask yourself, “What’s holding me back?”
Jesus wants to dwell in your heart, but can only do so if you let Him enter in. We all have places in our hearts that we keep hidden from Jesus. (Or at least we think it’s hidden from Him.) Maybe it’s a secret that we keep locked away from everyone, maybe it’s a sin that we can’t seem to shake, maybe it’s a toxic relationship, or an attachment to material things or to ideas of ourself…The list is endless. These things keep us from fully entering into communion with Jesus and takes up all the room at the inn, so to speak, of our hearts.
Make a Good Confession
In order to truly allow Jesus to touch you this Christmas, you’ve gotta make some room. In the sacrament of Confession, we are given an opportunity to make room for Jesus. Maybe all you can offer Him is a shabby stable with a dirt floor and a wooden trough filled with hay. That’s okay, because we know He makes even the most pitiful and shameful of places beautiful. He will take whatever you can give Him.
Start by making an examination of conscience. This is a time to sit quietly with our Lord and think of all the ways we have distanced ourselves from Him through sin, and recognize the ways we have failed in our journey to holiness. Empty yourself out in vulnerability during your Confession; share with Him all the things that hold you back from Him, and invite Him into your heart like never before. Christ did not come to us when we had it all together or when we were ready. He came in the midst of all our messes, in the midst of all our busyness. He entered into the literal pig styes of our lives! (You can read more about how to make a good confession here, and for an example of how to examine your conscience, look here.)
Journey Along with Mary
No one does Advent better than our Blessed Mother. After all, she prepared her heart for the coming of Jesus for 9 months! No one knows how to receive Christ like she did – fearlessly, boldly, gently, freely, purely and completely. Ask our Mother to lend you her yes, to form your heart into a vessel. She is the perfect example of obedience and receptivity, and meditating upon her journey has helped me tremendously in understanding how to best receive our Lord each Christmas.
Picture yourself walking alongside her as she journeys to Bethlehem, holding her hand and talking excitedly about the baby – how you can’t wait to meet him, what a gift He is, what color you’ll paint the nursery! Pray the rosary and meditate upon the mysteries, sit with scripture, and continually look to Mary to help you get ready for Christmas. She’s got your back.
Advent is a time set apart. The weeks leading up to Christmas eve are meant to be a time of prayer and joyful anticipation! It’s a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of our sweet Jesus into this world as an infant, and He asks that we receive Him. I hope this post gives ya some ideas on how to get started!