Advent is a word with Latin roots meaning "approach" or "coming". Advent is just 3 weeks away. It always begins on the Sunday closest to November 30th, the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle. It is also the beginning of the new liturgical year for the Roman Catholic Church. Our church always gets new Missiles in the pews and decorates with purple. Why purple? Purple is for Royalty. Jesus is King and we are preparing for His birth. Purple (Violet) is also the color of penance, sacrifice and prayer. I always tell my children, "Advent is a time of waiting, it's a time to prepare our hearts and souls for Jesus." Easy to say, but how is that lived and acted out?
Inspired during Adoration last week, I wrote down 10 ways to prepare our hearts and souls during Advent. Read through these, but please keep in mind, this time of Advent, of preparing, is also meant to be a time of peace and not a time of rushing around trying to do every possible thing you can. Start slow, pick one or two things for yourself and one or two things for your family. My hope is that you are able to feel PEACE in the waiting and JOY in Christmas. Remember those 12 days of Christmas? Yeah, they don't even start until Christmas day!
- Pray More If you don't pray now, or struggle with this area, this is the perfect time to start! Decide what you are going to do to add prayer this Advent. Set a time each day, maybe mornings work best for you, for me, even before I get out of bed works. I have my prayers right by my bedside ready for me to pick up. St Andrew's Novena might be a great way to add prayer. It is a novena that starts on November 30th and goes each day during Advent until Christmas Day. These are the cards we have and use each year: HERE Another way might be to pray the rosary each day, set time each day to pray this beautiful prayer that focuses on the life of Jesus. You can order these beautiful cards HERE
- Stay Close to the Sacraments Go to Confession! If it's been a long time, go! Prepare your soul by cleaning out, so to speak, tell the priest when you go, that it's been a long time and he'll help you through it. Now is a good time to go to Confession to empty the sin on our souls and fill it with Grace! I know at our Parishes in our Cluster, there are extra opportunities to go as the priests offer many more times.
- Go to Daily Mass Going to daily Mass during Advent is a great way to prepare your heart and soul for Christmas. If going every day is too hard, try adding just one day each week. Like choose Monday for example, to start your week. Or choose Friday to end your week. Try it. I know you will yearn to go more.
- Advent Wreath The lighting of the Advent wreath (and the distinguishing of the candle) is always a highlight of our supper time during Advent. Someone is picked each day to light the candle and someone is picked to read the family prayer. Every Advent there are free pamphlets at the entrances of church. These pamphlets have Advent activities and prayers for each day. Pick just one and stick with it. Pray from it each day as you light the candle. We leave our candles burn all during our meal then someone gets to extinguish the candle. Wreaths do not have to be expensive. I made ours by picking up supplies at the local craft store, I spend under $20, candles and all! There's something special about lighting a candle and watching it, the peace it brings our hearts as we focus on our prayers.
- Advent Calendar We have tried many versions of this over the years. My mother-in-law made us a cloth calendar with pockets and room to put notes in each pocket. Each note for each day give us something to do. We also buy the chocolate candy calendars each year, I've yet to find a cheap religious one, we just buy the cheap ones found at the grocery store or craft store. It's kind of a fun way for kids to countdown the days to Jesus's birthday.We've done coloring countdowns too. I have a friend that made this great countdown, HERE. My all-time favorite countdown has been making cards for each day during Advent and we hang them over our patio doors in our dining room. Each day we open a card and it gives us something special to do. Some suggestions could be: (starting with December 1 here but you would start with whatever day each year Advent starts)
- Read in the Bible, Luke Chapter 1 &2, the birth of Jesus, first day of Advent, light first candle!
- Write 20 things that you are thankful for!
- Donate toys and books to charity (hospital?)
- Light a candle and say a prayer for someone
- Make Christmas Crafts with Mom (set out shoes for St Nicholas!)
- Celebrate the Feast of St Nicholas!
- Make a mini stocking and fill with goodies for a friend or neighbor
- Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin--make Mary Muffins and go to Mass!
- Set up play tent with Christmas lights!
- Open new ornament! Gotta find it first!
- Bake Christmas cookies and treats!
- Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadaulupe! Let's do Mexican food!
- Feast of St Lucy! Celebrate!
- Unwrap new book! Have a family movie night-watch Elf with popcorn!
- Have a hot cocoa tea party with cookies!
- Wrap presents!
- Sing and dance to Christmas music!
- Fill out Christmas cards today
- Look at Christmas lights
- Mom and Dad's Anniversary--make them love cards!
- Open new Christmas book! Bring food to the food shelf!
- Simeon's b-day Let's party He's going to be 6!!
- Bake a cake for Jesus's birthday!
- It's Christmas Eve!! Celebrate and go to Mass!
6. Advent Angels On Thanksgiving day we always draw names and each child gets to be the person's name they draw angel. They get to pray for that person, do special things each day, like doing their job or giving them special things, coloring pictures, writing them notes, leaving candies, you name it. On Christmas Even they get to give a gift to their person they were an angel to. Usually within a few days they have it all figured out but are not always sure so it's still fun to sneak and do nice things for their person. We also talk about how this spreads the love of Jesus and helps us to prepare for HIM.
7. Books We have a ton of Christmas books for children so one year we wrapped up all the Christmas books (in purple) and opened one each day. We usually only read these during Advent, so it was fun to open "new" old treasures each day. It gave us time to enjoy each book in a special way too. One very special Advent book we've read on and off through the years has been Jotham's Journey.You can order this book HERE. You read a few pages each day and each day leaves you with a little cliffhanger making you excited for the next day. If you look further down on that link, there are other stories, Tabitha's Travels, and Bartholomew's Passage are books about children you encounter in Jotham's Journey giving you their side of the story.
For yourself, I'd suggest this book, Rooted in Hope, by Elizabeth Foss. I've done a couple of her bible studies and have loved them. It's a great bible study for busy mamas! This one is written for Advent and has some really awesome ways to help you grow closer to our Lord.
8. Bake a Birthday Cake for Jesus--as simple as it sounds, it can be a very rich tradition that you and your children will love and cherish! We bake a cake called "Midnight Bliss" because it is believed that Jesus was born at midnight. We make this delicious, rich, chocolate cake for Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of Jesus every year. We put on a candle for each of us, to symbolize the light of Christ inside of us.
Midnight Bliss Cake
1 pkg chocolate cake mix, any variety (we picked chocolate fudge)
1 pkg (4 serving size) chocolate instant pudding
1 container 8 oz sour cream
1/2 cup flavored coffee, prepared (I use International Foods French Vanilla)
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1 pkg 8 squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease and flour a tube pan (bundt cake)
Beat all ingredients except chopped chocolate in large bowl with mixer, until well blended and smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate and pour into prepared pan.
Bake 50-60 minutes until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
No need for frosting with this cake, it's rich and that good!
No need for frosting with this cake, it's rich and that good!
9. Give to Others--Clean out your closet and donate to local thrift shops. We have a thrift shop called "Treasure Chest" and all proceeds go to help our local crisis pregnancy center. (Birthline). Empty your cupboards and donate to your local foodshelf. Make some goodies and deliver to your neighbors, to the homeless on the street corners, to the lonely person you saw at Mass the other day. Another way to give to others is to give your time. Go visit someone you haven't seen in a long time.
10. Write Your To-Do list! Plan out your Advent. What do you want to finish before Christmas comes? Remember not to list too much. Do what needs to get done. Try to spread it out all through Advent. This will help you not to have to rush around. This will help you to enjoy it much more. When Christmas comes, you will feel as though your time was spent well, you'll have peace in your heart which is God's gift to us and our gift to Him.
I hope you pick a couple of these things to help you this Advent. I hope these things bring you closer to our Lord and that you feel the PEACE and JOY only the Christ Child can give.