Advent is upon us. This year, it happens to be the shortest Advent we can possibly have — with the 4th Sunday of Advent also being Christmas Eve — so it’s more important than ever to be intentional about living out Advent.
Trying to live a more intentional Advent can help us to keep the really important things a priority and to let go of the small things which don’t really matter in the end.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make Christmas special for the people around us, am I right? So it’s time to take a step back and ask ourselves what this season is really all about.
So let’s get to it: 7 Ways to (Try To) Live a More Intentional Advent.
Choose a Few Resources to Keep You On Track
Advent is all about preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus. It’s about letting go of an excess of things and activity, so that we can experience the deeper joy and peace that only comes in knowing Jesus.
It is about creating a silence in our hearts for a deeper conversation with Jesus. It’s about allowing that conversation to transform our lives, which will naturally lead to a greater capacity to love and serve the people around us.
My first word of advice is to choose a few resources to help you keep that fresh in your mind. The name of the game is not adding too much to an already packed schedule.
This year, I’m trying something different. I decided to invest $19 in the book Rooted In Hope, by Take Up and Read publications. I amazon primed this book in hopes that a little help staying focused on Christ during this busy time of year would be just the thing I need to keep me on track.
For me, it’s a worthwhile investment because I will be using it instead of my typical morning prayer routine. That means no extra time to carve out to make this work for me — which means I’m more likely to do it.
It has an extremely helpful approach to praying over scripture, also known as Lectio Divina. I’ve already been implementing the handy one page approach to incorporating Lectio Divina into my morning prayer time and I’ve experienced a noticeable change.
It just might change the way I do my morning prayer. We shall see. Maybe I’ll check in towards the end of advent and let you know my final review of it.
Consider Going on Retreat
I know it’s hard to get away this time of year, but if you can, how amazing would that be? I highly recommend retreats put on by the order of Miles Christi. They offer silent retreats in a weekend format and evenings or mornings of recollection around the United States and Canada.
These guys are amazing! John and I have personally attended their weekend silent retreats and they have been life-changing moments for us.
If you can’t make it this time of year, they offer retreats all year long. Plus, they are joyful priests who are rock solid in their formation. Enough said. Sign me up!
To learn more, check out their website here.
Another event that might work for you is a Blessed is She virtual retreat. It is happening tomorrow! Go here to sign up.
I have attended a Blessed is She Brunch, and I love the many things they are doing online — so it’s likely to be a fantastic event.
If neither of those work for you, might I recommend you take the 30 Minute of Adoration Challenge? I did it last year, and it began a really good habit of regular adoration times for me. It’s a great way to get away on a mini-retreat once a week.
Try to Think of Advent as a Mini Lent
This is the thing. I know it is tempting to go straight from Thanksgiving to Christmas, with the darkest days of the year upon us, but the Church considers Advent a penitential season.
I’m not saying don’t play Christmas music or attend parties at this time of year, but what I am saying is that teaching ourselves to wait — just a little bit longer — will serve us well in life.
Saying no to ourselves is a good thing, especially when it’s because we are saying “yes” to something greater. That something greater is Christ wanting desperately to come into our hearts and fill us with joy — a joy we never knew was possible.
If we fill our hearts and minds and stomachs with every good thing out there during Advent, then there will be very little joy left for Christmas.
Don’t be afraid to say “no” to some good things this Advent Season — but say “no” because you want to allow your heart to be emptied of things, so that it can be filled with Christ.
Besides, the more you say “no” now, the more you will enjoy all those good things during the Christmas Season.
In a very real way, waiting on all those things you love about Christmas is a powerful way to develop the virtue of hope, which we all need more of these days.
By the way, the Church gives us an entire Christmas Season, not just a day — so if you’re serious about little penances during Advent, make sure you are equally serious about “doin it up” during the Christmas season.
Don’t be a Scrooge
The only thing worse than a person who begins to celebrate Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, is the person who stands around judging everybody else who does. In other words, don’t be a scrooge.
The people trying to spread Christmas cheer (albeit a little too early) are not the real problem here — you are. Perhaps you need to refer to #2 and go on a retreat or perhaps you need to spend some time in the adoration chapel, but you’re not winning anybody over to Jesus by being a “sour-faced saint”, as St. Teresa of Avila used to say.
We’ve all been there — or at least I have, so I feel your pain, but sometimes kindly accepting those cookies and engaging in a more festive gathering than is to your liking during Advent is just the thing you need to grow in kindness, humility and the love of Christ.
Be grateful people are willing to invite you and your crazy family over, eat the cookies and ask God to help you grow less rigid in your practice of the faith.
After all, there are no hard and set rules to living out Advent. Don’t get so caught up in the letter of the law, that you forget the Spirit of it.
Honestly, I can remember a few postpartum Advents where I watched Hallmark Christmas movies almost every night. It was my way of trying to keep the baby blues away.
So just remember that we have no idea the sadness or struggles that people are dealing with this time of year. Let’s try to be understanding of that.
Make Light and Warmth an Important Part of Advent
I like to think of Advent like a crescendo in a great piece of music. Slowly over the 4 weeks of Advent, our house is transformed into a house full of light and warmth that is only fully realized after Christmas Mass.
For me, I love the symbolism of slowly increasing the light, as we get closer to the arrival of the Light of the World on Christmas Day. In the first weeks of Advent, the Advent candles becomes our focus. Each week, the Advent wreath slowly gets brighter with each candle that is lit.
A simple but impactful experience could be to try eating family dinners by only the light of the Advent Wreath. In that first week, it will actually be quite dark — by the 4th Week of Advent, everybody will be struck by how much light 4 little candles can bring to a room. Give it a try.
Perhaps begin your meal with the simple scripture verse from John 1:5:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
We are meant to be that light in the world. Even one candle can hold back the darkness. What a beautiful meditation for your family this time of year.
Make Joy Sunday a Big Deal
Okay, I have to admit that my favorite candle on that Advent Wreath is the pink one. Yes, Joy Sunday, otherwise known as Gaudete Sunday is my favorite! It means “Rejoice” and we try our darnedest to do just that.
Some people choose to hold fast and do all their decorating on Christmas Eve. If you’re one of those people, I salute you. I, however, have found it much less stressful to prepare my house in stages during Advent.
Joy Sunday is the day we get our Christmas Tree, decorate most of the house, and put on Christmas Music. It’s just the best. For us, it’s the perfect time to amp up the cheer. It might be the night we watch White Christmas or Bells of St. Mary’s and drink some eggnog.
On a practical level, it is the day we get our house ready to receive guests that will be visiting over Christmas. This allows for the last weeks before Christmas to be more prayerful — because we are not scrambling at the last minute to get our house ready. It works well for us.
Whatever you do, make sure your kids notice the difference on the third Sunday of Advent. Then get yourself ready to go back into the final weeks of Advent with a renewed enthusiasm for preparing your hearts for Jesus.
Make Your Own Family Traditions
How amazing is it that you get to decide your own family traditions? Have fun with it. Some years we have tried things out, and they simply didn’t work for our family. Don’t feel obligated to keep doing something just because you always did it in the past.
It’s okay to chuck the things that add so much stress to your life that your first priority of growing closer to Jesus is being thwarted. It’s more than okay — it’s actually a good thing to get rid of those things.
Decide the traditions that work for your family and those are the things will become part of your family legacy. We have so many beautiful traditions in our Catholic faith. Dive in, explore and incorporate the one’s that are life-giving for you and your family.
At the end of the day, being intentional about these choices will lead to a far more peaceful Advent and joy-filled Christmas. Here’s to the most blessed Advent yet!
Linking up with Kelly