SummaryChristmas parties, concerts, shopping trips – December stress happens, but Debbie Gaudino offers five practical ways to keep calm and Keep Christ in Advent.
It happens every year….My first Confession after Christmas consists mostly of repenting of having “lost” the celebration of Advent amongst the hustle and bustle of December.
Can you relate?
Here are five practical ways to Keep Christ in Advent, a product of small, tangible changes I have made after years of waking up on Christmas morning wondering why I felt so spiritually unprepared to welcome the Savior.
1. Prepare for Advent First
For the past several years, the order of my planning and preparation goes like this: Thanksgiving, December festivities (all those parties, concerts, shopping trips, and other things happen in December), Christmas, and Advent. See anything wrong with this picture? I sure do.
In my world, Advent has become an afterthought – something that I scramble to focus on around the time we light the pink candle. Here are a few ideas to prepare, in advance, for Advent.
- Get out your Advent wreath and make sure that you have fresh candles.
- Have on hand a daily devotional that you can use for prayer during the Advent Season. There are tons to choose from, so pick one that is doable and family-friendly.
- Make a plan with your family to set aside time each day to light the Advent Wreath and spend time together in prayer. Pick a time that works for all of you – it could be dinnertime, or first thing in the morning, or right before bedtime. Advent is a penitential season, so this may require a sacrifice to fit in. However, as with all sacrifices, God will not be outdone in generosity, and the blessings will flow.
- Meal plan to ensure your family maintains healthy eating habits during a time of year filled with cookies, eggnog, and other tempting treats.
- Schedule time for exercise and rest – better yet, combine prayer and exercise with rosary walks or service to elderly neighbors and family. Think of doing things like lifting boxes of decorations, setting up Christmas lights, etc.
One of the things I dread most about Christmas is the influx of new stuff that invades my house. While I am immensely grateful for the generosity of friends and family, I stress every year about where to put new toys, new clothes, new ornaments, and that new 17 Piece Nativity Cookie Cutter Bake Set that I just had to buy…..
A great family activity to do in November to help prepare for Advent is to purge the house of old toys, clothes which have been outgrown or worn-out, kitchen gadgets that never get used, broken ornaments, used books, dusty trinkets and more.
Advent begins the new year in the Church, and we can make it a time to start a new year in our homes as well.
Purging also allows us to donate new and gently used items to others who are in need. Another time and money-saving idea for things that we have outgrown is to do a Secret Santa with friends where all the gifts must be items from one’s own home.
3. Plan to Try a New Christ-Centered Activity
Advent is a special time in the life of the Church, and most parishes offer wonderful opportunities for spiritual growth during this season, including Advent missions, penance services, concerts of sacred music, evenings of lessons and carols, and more.
Before Advent even begins, scout out an event sponsored by your parish, a neighboring parish or Diocese that you believe will help you focus on spiritually preparing yourself and your family for Christmas and put it on the calendar.
Like Lent, Advent is also a penitential season, so be sure to make time for you and your family to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation – always the best way to prepare our hearts for the Lord.
4. Just Say No
December brings with it a flood of invitations and opportunities for celebrations. While those are generally all fun and festive times, they can also easily and quickly lead to burnout, exhaustion, and in some cases, depression. It is OK to say no to holiday events and even to certain “traditions.”
Pick an evening in November and sit down with your spouse and plan out what activities you will attend and what you will not. Having a united front, well in advance, is essential to winning the battle for time in December and will help to eliminate a lot of stress, hurt feelings and arguments.
5. Offer it Up
December stress happens – to some extent, it is unavoidable. By the time Christmas Eve rolled around last year, my behavior more closely resembled Attila the Hun than any great saint.
If you find yourself getting tired, grouchy, and just plain Scroogeish, take a deep breath, find a quiet spot, meditate on the blessed peace and silence that must have accompanied the Lord’s birth, and offer all your struggles up to Him.
Pray for those who do not yet know the name of Jesus; pray for the person who is bugging you the most at that moment; pray that the world experiences the peace that the Savior brings.
In the end, there is no such thing as the perfect Christmas celebration – only the perfect Christ.
Let’s all keep calm and focus on Him this Advent.