SummaryWhether keeping it simple, focused, or penitential, our experts share how they use Advent time to best prepare for the Christ Child.
I Started By Keeping it Simple
Keeping Advent penitential has presented challenges every year. Yet, I’d dare say the challenges continually increase as the culture moves further and further away from the season’s true meaning. So, my first step in keeping Advent penitential is to release myself from the anxiety of trying to “do all the things.”
There is a real temptation to try on all the beautiful, holy, inspired, and new Advent traditions hawked on social media and Catholic blogs; therefore, I start by keeping it simple.
I may follow one or two inspirations to create a novel Advent wreath or pray an extra novena, but I will not overwhelm myself or my family with fifteen Advent craft projects.
Years ago, our parish priest encouraged us to postpone decorating our homes until Christmas Eve.
His instruction was wise; however, leaving everything for the day before Christmas isn’t practical for our family. But, we wait a little longer to begin decorating and leave the Christmas tree outside until a few days before Christmas.
Lastly, we make going to confession a priority during Advent. To that end, we typically choose to attend one of our diocesan Penance Services.
While we go to confession regularly throughout the year, the Advent Penance Service provides a powerful witness to all of us. Seeing the long lines of penitents reminds us that this season is one of preparation and anticipation and that we are part of a community of believers.
Keeping it simple, not rushing to decorate, and making the Sacrament of Reconciliation a priority helps my family to retain the penitential spirit of the Advent season.
Tara Brelinsky, North Carolina
Don’t Try To Do Everything
To keep Advent holy, I do two things: I start early, and I don’t try to do every single thing. I will try to have the shopping done by Thanksgiving. Then I can focus my heart on what matters in the season. We do an Advent wreath but have a complicated relationship with the Jesse tree. I love it, and it’s beautiful. It’s just by December 9th or 10th I start getting behind. We can’t do every devotion every time.
I am also not the cookie-baking queen. My kids are lucky if we get a package of store-bought gingerbread men. And that’s ok.
But one thing we do that is important to me is what we call Epiphany Buddies, or EB. We put all our names in a hat, and each of us draws on the first Sunday of Advent. That person is your EB.
We have little mailboxes from the dollar store, and through Advent, you write little notes, say extra prayers, perform sacrifices, and do extra chores for your EB. Was your bed made for you? Your EB has struck.
You are also expected to save money and buy a small gift for your EB. On Epiphany, all is revealed, and the gifts are exchanged after the house blessing and a special dinner. The reveal and the gift exchange focus on what you can do for others in the season and not on what you get. It also keeps the festivities going past December 26, which is unheard of in our culture.
Kristin Brown, Virginia
Keep Advent Penitential…
My husband grew up with Advent being a penitential season similar to that of Lent.
We carried this over into our engagement period and our marriage.
Our family always gives up sweets and treats for the season, except for feast days, birthdays, Sundays, or a rare early Christmas party.
We also give up something of our choosing that is specific to us individually.
When our children were younger, we had them put yarn or hay in a manger anytime they did something penitential or merciful to make Baby Jesus’ bed a little softer.
In recent years I’ve also included reading St. Alphonsus de Liguori’s book, The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ, as my spiritual reading for the season.
Susan Brock, Virginia