I am often amused by the way we Christians celebrate Advent. We speak of the season as a time of reflection and preparation. Our liturgies are marked with hymns and prayers calling us to be ready for the coming of God among us. And all of us long for a time of peace and tranquility, for a brief retreat from the hectic pace of our everyday lives. Yet as soon as we step out of our churches, our focus changes and we find ourselves caught-up in a hectic schedule of holiday parties and Christmas shopping. I cannot think of another time in the year when our lives are so torn between two different realities.
While I would like to suggest that we simply say no to the many holiday parties and cut back on our Christmas shopping, I know that for most of us neither of those are practical options. Sure, we can be more moderate in our spending and celebrating, but the truth is we live in the world. We have families and friends who may not share our understanding of this season. And for many of them this is an important time to celebrate the good they experience in their lives.
So what can we do to enter into the spirit of the Advent season? Here are a few simple things you can do this Advent:
- Pray: Schedule at least 15 minutes for quiet prayer each day. That’s right—schedule it. If we can book lunches and workouts in our calendars, surely we can book our prayer time too. Over a period of time you will be grateful that you do and you may discover that you need more than 15 minutes. At least give yourself time to be in the presence of God and listen to what God has for you.
- Acknowledge: Each day, name one way you seen God active in your life. Advent is a wonderful time of the year for us to be attentive to God’s presence among us. By naming how we experience God among us, the more alert we will become to God’s ever-abiding presence. If you’re on social media, share with your friends each day how you experienced God in your life.
- Be Grateful: Take a moment each day to say thank you. Gratitude cultivates generosity and helps us to be more positive.
- Give: Consider something that you might be able to do this Advent for others. Maybe it is visiting a family member or friend who is alone. Perhaps you may want to help out at your local shelter. Giving to others helps us to confront the prevalent consumerism of the season.
- Sacrifice: Although we may more often think of penitential acts as something we do during Lent, Advent has a certain penitential aspect to it as well. Next Sunday we will hear John the Baptist’s call to prepare the way for the Lord. By making small sacrifices during Advent, we grow in appreciation of the great feast of Christmas. This Advent, why not give-up your favourite candy? Or skip the coffee shop on your way to work? Perhaps you can give the money you were going to use on that coffee to a charity that helps those who have nothing.
-Don Beyers, Relationship Manager