Advent is its own season; a time to prepare for Christmas day. This year, I realized I need to prepare for the preparation; otherwise it is far too easy to let the season pass in a blur of Christmas shopping and Christmas baking and Christmas decorating. I want to give this season four weeks all its own for our family and for our home. What about you? What plans do you have to mark this holy season of waiting?
Here are my plans. I don't expect to fulfill each goal perfectly, but if I manage to refocus my thoughts on the Lord's coming birth, that will be a very good thing.
1. Stop working and shopping on Sundays. Our pastors are encouraging us first to do our best to make the Sundays of Advent a time set aside for the Lord. For me, that means making sure I don't go shopping on Sundays and I am encouraging my husband and our sons to do the same. I want to try to not do any work on Sundays too; this means my lesson planning and household chores need to happen on Saturdays. Too often, I I sleep in on Saturdays and veg out the while day after a long work week. Sunday arrives and I find myself catching up on work, on grocery shopping, on household chores and on guiding our sons through school projects and homework. I am trying to change that pattern, starting today.
2. Spend more time in prayer on Sundays. If we clear our calendars on Sundays during Advent, how will we fill the time? My parish is hosting a series of four Advent worship opportunities, starting tomorrow with Vespers at 4 p.m. My goal is to attend all these events. I might not manage it, but I certainly am going to try.
3. Pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena. I began praying the St. Andrew Christmas Novena yesterday, Nov. 30, the feast of St. Andrew. Only a few years ago I learned from my sister about this Christmas anticipatory prayer to God Himself, asking him to grant our request in honor of the birth of His son at Christmas. At this time, I don't have a special request, or urgent need, but I figure the more I pray, the more likely I am to discern what the Mystery wants of me during this season. My friend Sarah makes beautiful St. Andrew chaplets to guide us through the prayer.
Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment at which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, Oh my God!, to hear my prayers and grant my desires (Mention your intentions here), through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.
5. Host Advent Dinners. My plan was to have a sit-down Advent dinner with my family, and possibly include family friends, for each of the four weeks of Advent. That plan already has gone awry; our younger son's travel soccer team is hosting its season-end party Sunday evening. It's a big deal this year because they won their flight and they moved up two flights this year. So my plan to serve my family herb-roasted children, pasta with mushrooms and a Sugar Plum Pie for tomorrow's Stir Up Sunday, have been altered. My husband and I agree we will turn the dinner into an Advent lunch.
So what about you and your Advent plans? Do share.