This Sunday marks the start of the Christian season of Advent. When I was a kid, this meant some countdown candles would be lit on the church Advent Wreath, and I’d get to open the first cardboard door of my German Advent calendar to reveal a chocolate treat (whoo!).
Advent holds more meaning for me these days (although I gladly welcome chocolate into any type of celebration, religious or not).
The word Advent is derived from the Latin adventus, meaning “coming” or “arrival.” Of course we Christians look forward to Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, but that celebration can be even richer with a solid observance of Advent.
Advent is a season of waiting, hoping, and yearning. But let’s not allow that to mean waiting in lines, hoping for the best deal, and yearning for a moment of peace!
Here are ten ways we can focus our minds and quiet our hearts to prepare for a rich and meaningful Advent season.
1) Decorate – The day after Thanksgiving (and not a moment sooner!) is the day we decorate our home for the holiday season. We’ve pared down over the years to include less items with more meaning. We put up a Christmas tree, Nativity set, white lights, and this year, we’re adding an Advent wreath. Home is hands-down my favorite place to be when it’s bathed in pine and candlelight!
2) Enjoy Simple Rituals – I purchased our simple Advent wreath and taper candles to count off the Sundays before Christmas, and a book called “We Light the Candles” that includes family readings for each day of the Advent season.
And with the help of an advent activity book, we’ll be making a Jesse Tree with the boys to help them better understand the tradition of Advent too.
3) Sing– I’m a bit of a Christmas music junkie. I must have twenty different Christmas albums that play non-stop from the day after Thanksgiving until, oh, maybe Valentine’s Day? I’m totally jazzed about caroling with a group of friends and singing in the church choir.
Music is such a no-brainer way to get in the spirit, especially if you make sure to include some Advent songs like O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.
4) Create Something Together – Creating something beautiful and festive is a wonderful way to connect and share the season’s wonder.
It’s fun to include kids on baking a delicious treat. (Just don’t leave them unsupervised with the Kisses).
We have a blast swooshing out a yard full of snow angels and cutting snowflakes from white paper to scotch tape all over the windows.
5) Create Space – Some of us shudder a bit over the idea of holiday gifting because of how drastically it can up the clutter factor (especially for families with multiple children!)
In the weeks before Christmas, I plan to keep an eye out for extras that can be purged in order to create space in our home to breathe, and to prepare a bit for the influx that seems to come with Christmas. I’ll be especially resolved to donate desirable items like Christmas decor, warm clothing, and toys to our local thrift stores at the time they’re needed most.
6) Be a Peacemaker – This can be a tricky time to coordinate family visits and holiday schedules (wait, is that an oxymoron?) Maybe we can help one another out by entering the season with flexibility and grace!
And while we’re at it, let’s pinky swear not to be those Christians who are loudly offended by the secularization of Christmas or having Facebook hissies about people who only go to church twice a year.
Focus on making Advent and Christmas meaningful for you and yours, and your light will shine!
7) Relax – I’m not going overboard on Christmas shopping this year, and I always try to have it done before Thanksgiving. ( I CANNOT do the Black Friday madness. My armpits are sweaty just thinking about it.)
Instead of shopping the weekend after Thanksgiving, I’ll be decorating and wrapping so that when Advent arrives, I can kick back and revel the season. There’s nothing I love more than drinking cocoa in my garish pink reindeer pajamas beside a glowing tree.
8) Be Choosy – There are dozens of parties and galas and events to attend, but wouldn’t it be something if we only participated in the ones that foster joy and connectedness?
My friends and I enjoy a monthly girls’ dinner with a crew of awesome ladies, but for our December gathering, knowing we are all doing a lot of partying and dinners out, I decided to host a girls’ night IN where my friends can show up in the pajamas for popcorn, wine, and a Christmas movie by my tree. I’m so looking forward to a cozy, low-key evening with my best girls.
9) Reflect – Last year, on Christmas Eve morning, I rose early, grabbed a cup of coffee, and lit my Swedish angel chime. As I flipped through the stack of Christmas cards and photos, I was swept right up in gratitude for the beautiful people in my life. I plan to do this again this year, declaring it a quiet new tradition for myself. In the midst of activity, we all need moments like these to meditate on all that is good.
10) Meet a Need – We’ve seen some hard times this year, haven’t we? It’s evident that the whole world is, in some way, waiting, hoping, and yearning. In a time of year that can be overrun by consumerist culture, let’s remember to pour out gifts of love and goodness above all.
Ring a bell. Bake a cake. Open your doors or set an extra place at the table. Show the world that on the other side of waiting, hoping, and yearning is love.
Do you wish for more meaning in your Advent season? How might you embrace the season of Advent to prepare your heart and home for the coming celebration of Christmas?