I didn’t grow up with it, this Advent thing… this word whose root means to come, to arrive. If you look it up, you’ll get “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” I didn’t grow up with the traditions and rituals of this season where we count down and prepare for the arrival of the most notable person ever to walk the face of this green earth.
I was introduced to it in my 20’s and it has worked it’s magic on me, the wonder and the gift that this Advent season brings to slow down and soak in the meaning of the coming of Christ the babe through the weeks marked by the 4 Sundays before Christmas.
The thing is, I have never been very good about preparing for Advent. I’m just finishing waking up from my turkey coma when all of a sudden we are usually launched into the Advent season three days later. As much as I would like to be ahead of the game, I find myself always playing catching up, not having things prepared for Advent, for the preparing of the coming of Christ. And I’ve realized over the years to really prepare for Christ’s coming, it helps if you take the time to set out how you will prepare.
This year though, a strange thing has happened. Because Christmas Eve is included in one of the 4 Sundays of Advent, with Christmas being on a Monday, Advent didn’t start the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Advent will begin in December this year, December 3rd. It means there will only be 3 weeks to Advent this year, a shortening about which I am a little sad. But it also means I have the week after Thanksgiving to prepare for the preparing… to get ready for Advent.
It has got me thinking, maybe I’m not the only one who feels like she is never ready for Advent. Maybe I’m not the only one who pushes away from the Thanksgiving table and finds herself behind on this season where I want to be so intentional about what we do and how we prepare. And since we have an extra week to prepare for the preparing of the coming of Christ, I thought I would share the few things I’m doing to help me get ready.
1.Keep Things Simple: Do What is Meaningful for YOU.
I love all the ideas that are out there for Advent. All the beautiful Advent calendars and ideas to fill our home with ways to prepare for the coming of Christ. But what has happened is that I have three different types of Advent calendars and numerous devotionals and a Pinterest Board filled with Pins of ideas for crafts and decor and printables for Advent, and it all gets a little overwhelming. You can get lost in the Pinterest worthy Advent home decor and activities.
I get overwhelmed and I try to do too much. And I don’t know about you, but I can find myself becoming more scattered in the Advent seasons rather than centered. And yet isn’t that the opposite of what Advent should do?! Isn’t Advent supposed to pull the scatteredness of our lives together and help us to focus on what matters?! So this Advent, with a week to think about it, I am going to keep it simple and do what is meaningful for our family.
For us, the most meaningful part of our Advent season is our Advent Wreath. Each 1st Sunday of Advent every year, we gather to create a living wreath that helps slow us down and center. It is the focal point our of Advent reflection time. A place where we light a new candle each Sunday, and relight the candles each evening and we tell the story, the most important story ever to be told. We remember and we prepare and we are drawn into the mystery that burst forth on Christmas Day: God come down as a fresh-skinned baby out of love for us. Feel free to read more about our Advent Wreath Tradition.
Take the time to sit down this week as a family and talk about what would be the most meaningful things to do this Advent season. Write them down, write down what you need to do them, then stay focused on that!
2. Keep in Mind the WHY.
Last night, we flipped to a channel that was doing a Christmas special by an accapella group. We cut into the program just as they were singing the song Hark! The Hearld Angels Sing, which ends with the line “Glory to the newborn King!” They then proceeded to talk about the meaning of Christmas… joking that it was about getting drunk on eggnog and hanging out under the mistletoe. I switched the channel and said to my husband, “Isn’t it ironic?! This world, in the midst of this Christmas season filled with the singing of songs about the birth of Christ, they completely miss it!
Friends, don’t miss it… the WHY! It’s easy to miss it… in all the hustle of the holidays. Amidst the cookie making and gift shopping, present wrapping and party going it’s easy to miss space to take it all in, the holy miracle.
God come down. God made small. God as a fresh-skinned baby. A baby who would grow into a man, who would give Himself over in love.
In the things you do this Advent season, ask yourself the questions: How is this helping me prepare for the coming of Christ? Is this drawing me toward the meaning and significance of Christmas, or is it a distraction from it?
It’s not that everything you do has to point you to the birth of Christ. We do have office Christmas parties to attend and I love to make gingerbread houses with my kids as much as any momma. But in the things you do, as you gather as a family, talk about why this season is special. As you wrap presents talk about why we give, because Christ first gave himself for us. And especially in the things you are doing in your Advent traditions, ask if they are making space to attend to the holy miracle that we celebrate every December 25th.
3. What is The INVITATION to You This Advent?
I sat on a plane last month heading to a Spiritual Direction Retreat, feeling myself finally breathing free for the first time in a while. I was by myself with no one to attend to but me and it was finally quiet! Quiet… that is something this Contemplative longs for at the deepest level of her being but doesn’t get most days. I sat with my journal, something that has been a spotty practice as of late with once a week entries at best and half finished thoughts. As I wrote, the question came to mind to ask of God,
“Lord, what word would you have for me to hold in this time away?”
As I sat with this question, beverage service came around and I decided on a cup of hot tea. I fixed it up, I take mine with cream and sugar, and then I proceeded to guzzle it down. You see, that is how I must drink hot drinks most days, fast and furious… or it inevitability ends up cold! And most days, because of the numerous interruptions I get from the kids, I drink my coffee cold. As I found myself gulping this hot drink down, and felt it burn a bit, the thought occurred to me. “Why are you drinking this so fast Janise?! You are in no rush. Savor it!”
That word hit me and I knew… this is my word from God… my word to hold in this time away and maybe to carry me back into my life… SAVOR. I looked up the definition. Savor: to enjoy food or an experience slowly, in order to enjoy it as much as possible. When you savor something, you enjoy it to the fullest. Slow down long enough to enjoy something to the fullest… Wow.
Friends, that is the inviation I feel God has given me this Advent season, to savor. To take things in slowly and enjoy them fully. This word, this invitation feels perfectly fit for me this moment in my life in light of what this year has held for me.
What might be God’s invitation to you as you prepare for Advent?
Take time this week to sit with God for a while and ask Him. Ask Him what word He might have for YOU this Advent season. Ask Him what His invitation might be for you to soak in the gift of this Advent time.
He will tell you, I promise, if you take the time and space to ask and listen.
I pray that this week you are able to prepare for the preparing of the coming of Christ, so that come this Sunday, December 3rd, you can take in the fullness of wonder and gift that this Advent season is.
And even if you don’t feel ready by December 3rd, know that God will meet you where you are at anyway… just as he did 2000 years ago in a straw filled crib. He has met me every year even without feeling prepared for the Advent season. God meets us in the mess of life, whether we are well prepared or not! He is there!
Happy Advent Friends!
Please feel free to download this printable to help in your preparations! 🙂