There are just under two weeks left of Advent. If you’re just realizing that you haven’t done much of anything to celebrate Advent—don’t despair.
Or maybe, like me, you started off strong. You got Advent candles, and lit them the first two days of Advent, but then fell off the bandwagon and haven’t done much at all since.
Recommit to Advent with me today. Any number of days you are able to prepare for Christmas in this special time of Advent is better than zero days!
Here are six ways to refocus your Advent. Try one each day, or pick two that you want to focus on for what is left of the season.
If you don’t know the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” by heart yet, now is a good time. Listen to it in the car, and learn to sing along with it. In fact, as you will hear Christmas music everywhere you go, try listening to some instrumental sacred seasonal music or just instrumental music in general. The lack of words makes it easier to reflect and pray in the busy moments of our day.
The secular culture of Christmas focuses on getting and preparing material things—decorations, food, presents. These things aren’t bad — preparing beautiful things and gifts for others to enjoy is a wonderful thing. But we shouldn’t forget to give to people who can’t repay us in kind as well. In the next few days, decide on how you can give this month. What sacrifice can you make of your time and money to help the poor?
Can you prepare your heart for Christmas by giving up a little treat every day? Maybe one day it is a second cup of coffee, and another day you skip having a Christmas cookie. When we let go of something we are attached to, it helps us attach our hearts to what matters—in this case, it helps us stay attentive to Jesus.
Make an Advent corner in your house, even if you have all of your Christmas decorations up. If you have a Nativity scene up, make it more “Advent-focused” by taking away baby Jesus. Maybe even move Joseph and Mary so that they are next to the stable and not inside yet. If it looks visually a little off and not symmetrical, all the better. That will bring your focus to the preparation and time that still needs to happen before the day we celebrate Christ’s birth.
Have you read the Bible lately? Is there a spiritual book you’ve been meaning to read, but haven’t? Does some Catholic company send you daily reflections for Advent that you usually just ignore? Some special spiritual reading can help set this time apart from the rest of the year, and can give you something beautiful to think about as you wrap another present or roll out more cookies.
This last suggestion is the most important — and probably the most helpful — way to prepare your heart. Every evening in your Advent corner (see Decorate) commit to some minutes of quiet reflection—be that seven minutes or 27 minutes. Set a timer and stick to this prayer time every night from now until Christmas. You can use a reflection from the ideas above (see Read), you can prayerfully sing and reflect on the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” (see Sing) or just ponder Jesus’ birth, and what that means for the world, and for your life.