Advent is my favourite liturgical season for so many reasons. It provides an opportunity for seeing more of the nighttime sky and the stars. And the night sky plays such an important role in the Christmas story. Advent is a countercultural expression of my Christianity. From the time that Halloween decorations are put away, Christmas décor is placed in stores and homes, malls and lawns. The longing and waiting of Advent is nowhere to be seen. Advent invites us to explore patient expectation as I think parents experience in the gestation of their child. As well, it is a time of hope, peace, love, joy and faith.
I believe our world needs Advent but struggles with living in the moment, so it rushes into Christmas and arrives at the feast day exhausted. So many have anxiety about Christmas. The celebration carries so much angst and disappointment carried over years. If we were able to hold off living into the future and moved more contemplatively day-by-day, we might be able to have more peace and joy.
Practical steps to live Advent:
Do all your Christmas shopping before Advent begins (stay within your budget and don’t feel the pressure to purchase more than you need).
Try new ways to pray. Ex. Visio divina, Christian meditation.
Make an Advent retreat.
Take a walk in the evening and search for the brightest star in the night sky.
Take up the practice of writing Christmas cards to significant people who have been witnesses to faith.
Undertake simple traditional practices: setting up an Advent wreath, putting up Christmas tree with lights only; with children, use a religious Advent calendar to count down the days; use a Jesse tree; set up a crèche (don’t put the babe in the manger until the eve of Christmas).
Make some of your gifts.
Follow a reverse Advent calendar for charity.
Learn the words of an Advent hymn by heart by singing it every day of the season.
Create a paper prayer chain – adding the name of someone who you pray for, then hang the paper chain on the Christmas tree on Christmas eve.
Start a new Advent tradition for your family.
An Advent prayer for 2022
Holy Spirit, it is Advent time but everywhere I look it seems that Advent is forgotten.
I can begin to feel my anxiety build and I wonder if I just make many lists of the preparations to be done that I will sleep more soundly at night.
Can you guide my footsteps this Advent? Can you nudge me to be present to the moment I am in?
Can I make time with family and friends a priority, instead of rushing from party to party, store to store,
with wild abandon for what the season is truly meant to be?
That I may arrive at the celebrations of Christmas with more peace, joy, hope and love. Amen.
Pat Carter, CSJ is a disciple, a teacher and an advocate for the poor. She has been a Sister of St. Joseph for more than half of her life and loves to use words to inspire faith and laughter. She is a cantor at her parish of St. Jerome’s in Sault Ste. Marie.