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How to Advent

CHRISTMAS IS A BIG DEAL! Can you admit that the Supreme Being taking on flesh and being made visible to the fallen world as a tiny human is a big deal? So, how can you make Advent truly a season of preparation and do it in a faithful way? In my experience, these simple steps elevated my Advent into a time that actually prepares me for Christmas:

If you’re going to prepare for Christmas, then you need to prepare not only for the celebration of the feast of Advent, Christmas, but for Advent itself.  Sit down, open a journal or your planner or whatever you do to schedule your life, and write down your plan.

1. MAKE A PLAN FOR CHRISTMAS

I’m a firm believer in “beginning with the end in mind”. And quite frankly, I’ve had too many Advents where I’ve mapped out and even accomplished amazing Advent commitments only to fall flat on the Big Day. What’s worse is when I fall flat on the Big Week, because let’s remember, Christmas isn’t just a day…it’s eight days (of solemnity-level feasting at least). Either way, the point of this step in your Advent plan is to not forget about where this is all leading: to the night where you will “fall on your knees” before the marvelous Baby-King. Yes, I just quoted the most overplayed Christmas song, but I’m sorry, it gets me every time. Some helpful tips for the Big Day and Big Week:

  • Sing Christmas carols to Jesus in the manger after Christmas Mass.
  • Sing Christmas carols every day of the Octave since you weren’t allowed for the four weeks of Advent.
  • Attend a few (or all) of the Masses following Christmas Day – these are some good ones!: St. Stephen, St. John, Holy Innocents, Holy Family.
  • Each day of the Octave, meditate on a different part of the Nativity. Think of Joseph and Mary welcoming their son, the shepherds arriving, and the angels glorifying.

2. CHOOSE ONE ADDED DEVOTION FOR ADVENT

Advent unlike Lent is a joyful preparation, rather than strict penitential preparation. Obviously, you can still be penitential during Advent, but it’s not emphasized as much. The goal in this step is to do something that both reminds you of the coming joy and at the same time brings you joy. Here are some examples:

  • Pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena prayer daily. It’s simply beautiful. You can find it here.
  • Do one (or all if you’re up for it) of the Liturgy of the Hours. Advent brings special antiphons that you won’t read the rest of the year!
  • Read the O Antiphons during the 8 days leading up to Christmas – these are also really beautiful and can give you a nice pep-up right before the Big Day.
  • Pray a daily rosary with your family or roommates. Thinking about Mary and all that led up to and followed the Nativity really can’t be beat.

3. FINISH ALL CHRISTMAS GIFT ACTIVITY BEFORE ADVENT BEGINS

This one may shock you, because it means you need to be on top of it…like really on top of it. But think about it: how many of the last few Advents did you spend thinking of gift ideas, researching the best places to buy gifts, coming up with a list for yourself, and finally, just buying the darn things? Doing Christmas shopping and all related activities are not intrinsically opposed to Advent or Christmas. In my experience, however, all of it just leads to more time spent thinking about things and less time spent thinking about the coming Messiah. So take advantage of the 2020-specific-30-day-long Black Friday deals, get it all done right now, and let Advent be Advent.

These are just a few tips to start your Advent off right. Luckily, it’s still November, and Advent isn’t quite here yet. Don’t put it off too long, or you might end up like me, mid-Advent, realizing you’re finally getting around to it. Start now, and you’ll realize preparing for the season of preparing will make all the difference!

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