Resting in the Peace of Advent
Rest & Wait.
These two words weigh on my heart and surface over and over in my conversations with loved ones. They form the invitation that the Lord issues straight to the depths of my soul.
Y’all, I love the holidays. I love watching warm bread rising in the oven, the shrieks of laughter in the air, and playing card games and board games with family and friends. But this time of year is BUSY. Between card addressing, present buying, and tree decorating, it can sometimes be hard to pause and breathe.
And yet, in her wisdom, the Church gives us the gift of Advent. We begin our new liturgical year with a period of waiting...a period of rest… a period of renewal. Isn’t that fitting? Isn’t that just what our souls crave the most during this often frantic time of year?
The word Advent comes from the Latin words "Adventus" which means "a coming or arrival" and "Advenire" meaning "to come to." And so, over the course of the next 4 weeks of Advent, we are invited to rest & wait. To sink into the silence. To reflect. To meditate. To grow in virtue and holiness as we prepare not just our homes, but also our hearts, to welcome the Christ child on Christmas Day.
Celebrating Advent in the midst of the chaos all around can be a challenge. So we decided to compile a list of ideas for celebrating and resting in Advent for you! The list is separated into 3 categories (prayer, sacrifice, and advent traditions). In each section, you’ll see what Kara and Mary are each doing this year for Advent, as well as a list of other ideas so you can pick what works best for you!
1. Incorporate daily prayer into your schedule. Pick whatever type of prayer works for you. There are so many options out there, but here are just a few ideas to get you started:
Kara Says: This Advent, I want to start and end my day with the Lord. I’m planning to start my day by delving into an Advent Journal (I chose Blessed is She’s “Bearing Light”). I’m hoping to end my day by spending 5 minutes every night in silence with the Lord, letting Him whisper to my soul.
Mary says: During the next few weeks, I want to be more intentional about spending time with God. Instead of checking my email or rushing to turn on the coffee maker when I first wake up, I’ll be spending a few minutes in silence (as much as I’m able with two small children!)…contemplating His deep love for me, asking Him to guide me throughout the day, and praising Him for all that is true, beautiful, and good in my life.
Other Ideas for Incorporating Prayer:
As you receive Christmas cards from friends and family members, pray for them and then hang them up in your house around a doorway or on the wall.
Pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena. It begins on November 30th and goes until Christmas Eve.
Find out if a church near you is having Vespers. Vespers is part of the Liturgy Hours, which is a beautiful method of prayer that all priests, religious, and many lay people pray every day. During Vespers, you sing the scriptures and reflect on them, which makes it a perfect way to enter into Advent.
See if your church is singing the O Antiphons during Vespers in Advent. Each of the O Antiphons, which are sung during the 8 days leading up to Christmas, refer to a different prophetic title (found in the Old Testament) that applies to Jesus.
2. Pick something to give up or sacrifice. Advent is known as the "small lent," which means we should be praying, sacrificing, and giving alms. Sacrifices help us to purge our hearts of selfishness, work to purify our intentions, and keep our focus on Christ.
Kara Says: This Advent, I’m making a conscientious effort to offer up small sacrifices throughout the day, like taking the smaller cookie, not complaining about my husband working late (again), and biting my tongue when my son throws a tantrum. This may not seem like much, but for this 7 month pregnant woman, this is what I know will work for me. I have a greater hope of actually sticking to this plan, and it will still actually challenge me. Hold me accountable, y’all ;).
Mary Says: As I’m waiting for Christmas, I’m waiting on making any big purchases. I’m going to examine what I need versus what I want. Am I being wasteful? Am I using my purchasing power for good? Am I being a good steward of our family’s resources?
Other Ideas for Sacrifices:
Give up something that you use too much to where you almost can't control it (an app on your phone, treats, etc.)
Give up something you shouldn't do anyway (cursing, yelling, gossiping) and keep yourself accountable.
If you're a visual person or you have kids, create a visual for tracking sacrifices. This could something small, like adding a straw to the crèche for Jesus each time you make a sacrifice. You could also make a poster of the manger and tape up a piece of "straw" that way. Or you could have a "Jesus stocking" where you write down the sacrifice and stick it in the stocking.
3. Start an Advent Tradition. While there are a TON of options out there, here are a few to get you started:
Kara Says: This year, our family is trying the Jesse Tree Tradition for the first time! The Jesse Tree is a tree (whether real, drawn on paper, made from a kit, etc.) that you decorate with symbols of the people and prophecies from the Old Testament that lead up to Jesus. Each day you read a short reading about a specific person or prophecy and hang the accompanying ornament on the tree.
The point of the Jesse Tree is to help us remember how Christ's birth connects with the full story of salvation. We’re using 2 Jesse Trees this year – one small, sticker based one for my 2 year old (from My Catholic Kids) and one for my husband and I (we’re using the book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp). For the second Jesse Tree, we’re hanging the ornaments on our actual Christmas Tree and *attempting* to hold off on putting all the normal Christmas ornaments on the tree until Gaudete Sunday. We’ll see if that plan lasts ;).
Mary Says: This Advent, we’ll be decorating a simple child-oriented Jesse Tree each morning and lighting our Advent wreath each evening. I’m striving to keep things simple and joyful so that I both follow through on each day’s ritual and create traditions that are meaningful and easy to understand for my 4 and 2 year olds.
Other Ideas for Advent Traditions:
Use an Advent Wreath to remind yourself of what Advent and Christmas are about on a daily basis. Don't just let it sit on your table; pray around the table each night, sing a Christmas song, reflect on it.
Count down the days to Christmas with an Advent Calendar. Or, make a cheap version of this by creating a paper chain and tear off a link each day to help you count down. You could even write scripture verses about Christmas on each link.
Celebrate some of the Feast Days within Advent. For example, celebrate the Feast of Saint Lucy (whose name means light) by reading the story of her life and going to look at Christmas lights. Or celebrate the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe by going to a procession or celebration at your parish, or the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas by stuffing your childrens’ or roommates’ shoes with candy.
Sisters, the truth of the matter is this – there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Advent. The circumstances of our lives and our hearts are all different. As long as we approach this season of renewal with an open heart, God will bless us abundantly. It can be tempting to try to do ALL the things… but then Advent becomes overwhelming and about doing, not BEING. And being… being still, being silent, being at peace, being with Him… is our Lord’s greatest desire for us.
Our humble suggestion? Pick one idea from each category (or less! You know what you can handle right now).
No matter how you choose to celebrate your Advent this year, know that we are thinking of you and praying for you as we head into this beautiful liturgical season! May your Advent be a fruitful one, full of rest & peace.
Kara and Mary