I never have enough time in the weeks leading up to Christmas to feel I’ve properly prepared for the non-sacramental but celebratory traditions of the holy day. However, there are some simple things one can do to celebrate all 22 days of this short, blessed waiting season which can help to keep the proper disposition for these four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. 

1) Following the wisdom of Saint Nicholas, make a list. Except, this is a list of people you will pray for. Place their names in the crèche as you pray for them, spiritual gifts for the baby Jesus, your time, your prayers, for their receiving of graces.

2) Imitate the Wise Men. At night, go outside and gaze at the Heavens to wonder at the immense dazzling beauty of the Cosmos, and the amazing love our God shows by draping all of creation in such a variety of loveliness for our eyes. Find a star and seek out that heavenly body each night you repeat this discipline, so as to begin to fathom something of what it took to navigate by the stars and travel into the unknown.

3) Be a good shepherd to your own heart and those around you. Find your family Bible and read the stories which point up to the birth of the Messiah, so as to see the beginnings of how Jesus fulfills the promise of the Old Testament with His coming. Making Jesse Tree ornaments may seem old school, but making such things does help create the connection between the Old and the New Testament, and help fix the stories themselves in people’s heads. Besides, it creates a memory and it’s fun.

4) Join with the Angels. Sing with a choir, take your family and/or friends to a local revels or chorus concert or bells, so everyone hears something other than “Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer” and “Last Christmas.”

5) Make room in the Inn. There are 22 days. Give away one thing, one coat, one can of food, one whatever it is, for all 22 days for each person in your family. Your closets and hearts will be lighter. 

6) Give a gift of light. When they were little, my kids would make luminary kits. We’d deliver them each Friday of each week of Advent to different families. We’d fill a large Ziploc bag with sand, and a second one with 10 paper bags, 10 tea lights and a book of matches. We’d also set up 10 bags with 10 tea lights on the driveway of the home we visited, and give them the extra set to deliver to someone else. It’s a fun inexpensive way to say, “Merry Christmas.”

7) Come, let us Adore Him. Jesus waits for us in the Adoration chapel and in the tabernacle at every Catholic Church. Make a deliberate decision to come and stay. You will be in the company of the Three Kings, the Shepherds and the Choir of Angels, not to mention the Holy Family. So come, come and see what child is this? Come and sit at Christ’s feet. This is the better portion.

It’s Advent. This year’s only 22 days, so it’s time to begin to as the Gospel says, “be ready.”