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Now that I’ve figured out what I’m going to do with the kids for Advent this year, it’s time I sat down and decided what my Advent plan is going to be. Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas and Jesus’s birth. As a mother, I now intimately understand the anticipation that comes with preparing for a birth. There’s joy at a new life being introduced into the world, anxiety over whether you’ll be able to parent right, worry over the health of the baby and yourself, and so many other emotions all wrapped up together. I’m sure Mary’s anticipation of Jesus’s birth was much the same, if not even more so given that she knew Jesus was going to be someone important.
We’re called to that same expectant anticipation each Advent as we prepare again for Jesus’ birth. On Christmas, we remember an actual time in history that Jesus was born. And at the same time, we are also celebrating Jesus arriving again into our homes and hearts. We must make ourselves ready for his coming, just as we make our hearts and homes ready for a new baby.
It’s Time to Make an Advent Plan
I’m a planner, so being pregnant brings a whole new layer of things that need to be thought about and prepared for. While my pregnancies are relatively easy, I’ve still had to deal with the “normal” aches and pains, morning sickness, and stress. In this time, I needed to nurture my body, giving it the food, rest, and grace it needed to prepare for each new change. I prepared my mind for taking the big step into mothering, and then mothering two, by reading all that I could get my hands on. Then, the nesting bug tends to hit me about halfway through, and I do everything I can to prepare our home for the new baby. And throughout, I prepare my heart through prayer, giving over all of my worries and anxieties to God and thanking Him for the ability to bring this new life into the world.
I’m applying these same ideas to my Advent plan this year. In the midst of this busy season, I’m going to do my best to slow down and listen to what my body and my mind are really needing during this time. I’ll be delving into scripture and the stories of a couple Catholic female role models, allowing my mind to grow and prepare for our Lord’s birth. As customary of the Advent season, I‘ll be preparing our home through cleaning out the old and bringing out all of the Christmas decorations. And, most importantly, I’ll be basing my Advent in prayer.
Slowing Down the Holidays
The holidays bring so much stress and busy-ness to them every year. There are gifts to buy, events to attend, traditions to continue, cookies to bake, and on and on and on. The to-do list never ends. But all of these things are self-imposed, really. There aren’t many “need to do’s” in the holidays- many, if not most, are “want to do’s.” When I look at all of my to do’s through this concept, it helps me to see that I only have to do the things that I want to do.
However, I’m much better at saying this than actually acting it out. I fall into the trap of wanting to do every little thing to make my kids feel the Christmas spirit as much as they can. And I want to take on every possible Advent devotion so that I will be oh so spiritually ready when the time comes. But often, this just isn’t manageable, and I end up burning out before Christmas even comes. So this year, I’m making it part of my Advent plan to slow it down and not plan too much. To only do the things that really bring us joy. I don’t really know what those things are yet, but I’m trying to not put expectations on myself and on what Christmas needs to be.
I don’t think Jesus wants us to feel stressed and anxious by his coming. I think he wants us to look forward to it with joyful anticipation. By slowing down and focusing on just the things that we want to do and the things that actually bring us closer to Him during this time, I hope to truly find the reason for the season.
A Little Light Advent Reading
I was going to choose an Advent-specific book to go through this year as part of my Advent plan. I looked at all sorts of lists and realized I was missing the point- I already have an Advent journal waiting (read about this below!), and I don’t need to add another Advent-specific book just for the sake of it. And, in fact, I already have a stack of religious books that I want to work through. I am hoping that by embracing a slowness in the season, I’ll be able to take the time to read and reflect on one or two of the books already in my stack.
Right now, I am reading Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness, and it is rocking me. It tells the story of Servant of God Dorothy Day from childhood through her activism as a young adult in the early 1900’s and on to her establishment of the Catholic Worker Movement. She is the epitome of what it means to be a Catholic woman working for social justice, and I am here for it. I didn’t know much about her before starting this book, and it has already set a fire in my heart. I’m excited to keep working through this book as Advent begins. Once I’m finished, I’m thinking I’ll move onto another Catholic woman role model’s autobiography, The Story of a Soul. This book contains the story of how St. Therese built her relationship with God and others through little acts of love. I started this book in college and for some reason, never was able to finish it. It’s been sitting in my stack every since, so I’m hoping to actually take it up and read it through. St. Therese’s “Little Way” is something that I am really hoping to incorporate more into the way that I live and especially how I mother. While not Advent-specific, I am hoping that by befriending these two woman, I will be able to prepare my mind and heart a little better for Jesus’ birth.
Preparing our Home for Jesus
I love Christmas. I love the season, I love the festivities, I love the feeling that it gives me, I love everything. I think I would be one of those people who decorates pre-Thanksgiving and listens to Christmas music all year long if my husband was at all okay with that (he’s not). However, this year after reading Kendra Tierney’s The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life, I’m starting to think harder about separating the Advent and Christmas seasons. What I’ve decided for this year’s Advent plan is to slowly prepare our home for Christmas, just as I slowly prepare our home for a new baby.
This means that I’ll probably start Advent with some deep cleaning, putting away any leftover fall decorations, and decluttering. Then, I hope to decorate for Christmas slowly throughout the Advent season. I pulled out our Nativity set, Advent Wreath, and Advent Calendar already to start Advent with the kids. Maybe, I’ll pull out our stockings and a few Santa Claus decorations come St. Nick’s Day on December 6th. I’ll put up the tree a little after that and slowly get things ready so that by the time Jesus is born, we are ready to welcome Him into our homes again. Then, of course, we’ll leave it up through the end of the true Christmas season! This year that’s January 12 (but we’ll probably leave it up a little past that, because why not 😉 )
Basing My Advent in Prayer
Though slowing things down, getting in some extra reading, and preparing our home are good things to prepare for Jesus’s birth, they mean nothing if not rooted in prayer and a relationship with God. I’m really excited to use the Blessed is She Advent + Christmas Devotional to center my Advent and Christmas on the anticipation for Jesus and then Jesus’s birth and life throughout the Christmas season. Each day the devotional shares a Scripture passage and reflection before providing questions to ponder and journal on.
My Advent plan is to find at least 15 minutes (hopefully 30!) each day to work on the Devotional and devote to prayer. I’ve been getting the kids to nap at the same time, so I’m hoping that this will continue through Advent, giving me a structured prayer time. The nice thing about have a structure to follow is that I feel like I need to do it every day. Sometimes, I’ll let my prayer time slide, thinking that I send up little prayers all day long, so I don’t need to have a separate sit down time. By taking the time to sit down and just be with Jesus, I’ll actually be taking the time to focus on preparing my heart for his coming.
All Jesus wants from us by His coming is a relationship. We are the ones who make it more complicated than it has to be, present company oh so included. If I do nothing on this Advent Plan, but still grow in relationship with Jesus, then I’ve had a successful Advent. I hope that by slowing things down, taking time to read about women who have taken this path before me, preparing our home, and taking the time to pray each day, I’ll prepare my heart, mind, body, and soul for Christmas.
P.S. Something new that I’m going to try this year is the St. Andrew’s Christmas Novena. It’s a set prayer that is traditionally said 15 times a day throughout the Advent Season. I didn’t include it above, because I’m not great at sticking to Novenas, much less one that lasts almost all month! I’m going to try though, and I hope that you’ll join me. My plan is to put the below image as my phone background and just pray it every time I open my phone- I’ll probably hit the fifteen times easy then… 😉