Advent is only six weeks away! If you are like me, you’re thinking, “I’ve got plenty of time.” But about this point in the year all that time starts filling up fast. Best to make our preparations now and know that we are ready to start a peaceful and reflective Advent when it arrives. I thought I would share my checklist for Advent prep with all of you, and have you sign-up for a free Advent gift (see below):
Buy candles — I have waited too long in the past, and many stores will sell out of Advent candles. The past couple of years I have bought the beeswax kits to make our own (super quick and easy) from Toadily Handmade Beeswax Candles. They have a variety of different sets you could purchase, and right now they are offering free shipping. We usually roll the beeswax sheets into candles with the kids over Thanksgiving weekend, and they are so excited to help get ready for Advent.
Create (or update) Advent playlist — Don’t go into Advent without music for the season. It is so important. I usually have it playing at home throughout the day when we are just hanging out, and the music and lyrics help keep us fixed on preparing our hearts for Christ’s arrival at Christmas. It can be time-consuming to search for the best music, but I have a surprise — I’m going to share my playlist with you! I’m in the process of creating a new playlist on Spotify, and when I get it done (in the next couple of weeks) I will email it out. So if you want it, please sign-up, and I will send it your way! I will also include some great titles that aren’t available on Spotify that you can purchase elsewhere.
Have a personal devotion plan — Ask the Holy Spirit to show you his plan for your Advent. Select a devotional plan or determine how you will set this season apart in your prayer life. I have signed-up for Bishop Robert Barron’s Advent reflections in the past. The Magnificat has an Advent booklet as well. There are lots of printed or digital options out there.
Have a family plan — How will your family celebrate Advent together on a daily and weekly basis. Perhaps you will light Advent candles each night at the dinner table and sing “O Come Emmanuel.” Or perhaps you will recite the “O Antiphons” December 17 – December 23. Decide what will be meaningful and beautiful to your family and what will bring all of you closer to Christ and ready to celebrate his birth. Remember, it is always a good time to start a new tradition!
Prepare some version of a Jesse Tree — the Jesse Tree tradition really highlights the whole meaning behind Advent. It traces the people and events in salvation history, and it reminds us of the long waiting that led up to Christ’s birth. Ann Voskamp’s book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, is a beautiful resource for families, and I plan to use it as my children get older. I currently use The Reason for the Season Jesse Tree ornaments with the Jesus Storybook Bible with my preschool-aged children.
It doesn’t take too much prep to have a beautiful and reflective Advent. It’s not about decorations and buying things. It’s about creating an atmosphere in your heart and home that is reflective of waiting on the Lord and anticipates Christ’s coming in our lives.
That time of year is about to be upon us — the stretch between Halloween and New Year’s that contains a lot of busyness in our society. Right in the middle of this busy time the liturgical Church year comes to an end, and the season of Advent begins a new one. It’s a season with a lot of holidays and feast days, and sometimes (more often than we may want to admit) we come to the end of it exhausted and full of regrets about being so busy and rushed and not having had the time to reflect and prepare ourselves for the Christmas season (which extends at least 3 weeks past Christmas day!).
“…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Today is St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day. So much could be said of this extraordinary saint whose life echoes in eternity. But today I am thinking particularly about how he sought out poverty on this earth. He came from a wealthy family, but in his early 20s he gave up his inheritance and embraced a life of poverty and prayer.
Choosing poverty may be one of the most counter-cultural things a person could do in the 21st century, particularly in America. Giving up material possessions and joining a religious order in the service of God would seem crazy to a lot of people. Even the people who think it noble and admire others for doing so, may secretly cringe at the thought of living with very few material possessions.
But we need to pray for more and more of these vocations, because those who live these lives of detachment are the ones who are pointing the rest of us to the kingdom of heaven. Most of us, in our daily consumption of material goods, are cemented in the kingdom of earth. We are fearful of losing the comforts of life or having to deprive ourselves of little luxuries, and so we become attached to here — this world. We need societies full of religious vocations, those who have embraced lives of poverty, to keep the rest of us focused on living with a healthy detachment on this side of eternity.
It’s St. Therese’s feast day on Saturday (Oct. 1), and her words have been on my mind and heart recently as I’ve been praying her Novena. I finished reading her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, last month; and one theme in particular has stayed with me as I go about my daily tasks: we are to do little things with great love.
We learn from this Doctor of the Church, that our path to becoming more like Jesus is really all about how we love. Moreover, it’s all about how we love in the little things. In the little encounters and duties of our daily lives we will discover whether we really have love. The presence of love will be more apparent in the quiet acts of service than in the loud displays of our faith. It is truly revealed in the hidden charities that few see, rather than the public demonstrations.
If the little activities of our days do not reveal much love, then we can see the opportunities we have to redeem. And redeem them we must. As Saint Paul says, “If I have not love, I am nothing;” and “if I have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Whether we do great things or small things matters not for eternity. What matters for eternity is that we did what God called us to do with great love. Whether you make a meal today, sweep a floor, hold a door, pick up someone else’s trash, pay for someone’s meal, give someone your seat, or clean up yet another potty training accident–do it with great love. We must all get to the place where we can say with conviction of heart, along with St. Therese, “My vocation is LOVE!”