Sunday, Nov. 30, is the First Sunday of Advent.
To find our Advent family checklist, click here.
For Jesse Tree readings, click here.
For Holy Heroes’ “Advent Adventure,” click here.
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37
“Popular piety perceives that it is impossible to celebrate the Lord’s birth except in an atmosphere of sobriety and joyous simplicity and of concern for the poor,” says the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety.
What they say is true: People who care about Advent know how it should be celebrated. The problem is: Making Advent simple and quiet is difficult in our culture — because one's calm, reflective mood keeps getting interrupted by Christmas carols on the radio, Christmas parties at work and at school and Christmas specials on TV. Under “Advent Guides” above, find the large-scale strategies that we have employed to keep Advent in Advent.
And here are four low-key practices that can help:
1. Pray for Your Gift List.
Many children have probably prayed that they would receive a certain gift at Christmas. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about praying for the people you intend to offer Christmas gifts to — and for those who intend to give you gifts. That way, it isn’t just a material exchange.
What to pray? See Nos. 2 and 3:
2. Pray an Advent Rosary.
Make it a point to spend 15 minutes a night praying the family Rosary during Advent. Turn off the lights in the living room, light the tree if you have one already, and go through the Rosary quietly and prayerfully. The Vatican recommends focusing Advent on Mary, so this works well — and feast days like the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) help, too.
3. Pray the Christmas Novena.
There is a nothing like a Catholic novena — nine days of anticipatory prayer before an event — to transform a waiting period into a prayer. The novena starts Dec. 17, and a good version of it is available here at EWTN’s website. It can add great reflections on Jesus’ life to those days of anticipation as Christmas draws near.
4. Create Two Playlists.
Many of us will have a hard time avoiding all Christmas music before Christmas. One thing you can do is create two Christmas playlists. One has songs about Christmas in the future tense — including the obvious religious ones like O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, but also even the secular songs could be added, such as I’ll Be Home for Christmas. That becomes your Advent playlist. Your Christmas playlist is easier: Christmas carols.
5. Visit the Blessed Sacrament on the Way to Shop.
Are you rushing to get Christmas errands done? In the midst of the busyness, make a quick visit to church and say "Hi" to the cause of all the festivities and gift-giving. Kneel in front of the tabernacle and say, “Jesus, thank you for waiting here for us all day, every day. We love you so much. Help make this Christmas all about you,” and lift your heart to God. You will be glad you did. And so will he.
Tom and April Hoopes write from
Atkinson, Kansas, where Tom is
writer is residence at Benedictine College.