Learning to Truly Prepare for Advent

I want to share the little journey of how I came to start living Advent in its truest sense. I hope my experience is an encouragement to you this Advent.

Growing up my family was pretty secular, we never celebrated Advent. In fact, as soon as Thanksgiving was over, we jumped right into the joy of Christmas. We busied ourselves for a month with decorating, holiday baking, shopping, and my dad putting lights on everyone’s home in the neighborhood with his cherry picker. It was a fun and exciting time that is full of many wonderful and fond memories, but I also remember a feeling that stands out distinctly.

The day after Christmas all of that momentum came to an abrupt stop, and in the blink of an eye all that time came and went without any interior recognition of what we just celebrated. Essentially, we prepared ourselves for the holiday season, but not at all for the birth of Christ.

Through the years, with the help of God’s guiding graces I delved further into my Catholic faith and learned about the solemn and reflective season of Advent. These are the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Through my journey of faith, I came to see and cherish that as a hopeful Christian Advent is meant to be a time of prayerful preparation and purifying penance to ready my heart for Christ’s coming. I was so excited to live this, because I didn’t want to feel that twinge of emptiness after Christmas day, so I went full speed ahead.

I did all the Advent activities that I could and did my best to not worry as much about the hustle and bustle of buying the best gifts and fighting the crowds, but really focusing myself on the birth of our Savior. I did so much Advent “stuff” that when the season ended, my heart still wasn’t ready! It was as if I exchanged all the secular preparation for a lot of Catholic themed activities, only to end up in the same place.

This taught me that that Advent is challenging and countercultural, instead of noise there is silence, instead of celebrating there is waiting, instead of indulging there is penance. I can only share my experience, but I think a lot of us are afraid to fully and whole-heartedly confront what this season is, not only waiting for Jesus to be born on Christmas day, but for the second coming.

So, this year I am owning this season, and I decided to do a couple of small things with great intentionality; I lovingly challenge each of you to do this too! This year I am focusing on more time for silence, less TV, music, social media, fewer checklists, full schedules, etc. and more time to walk with St. Joseph to Bethlehem, befriend Mary in the stable, and to gaze at this little Holy Family with the animals as we await the child that will save us all.

Happy Advent, Dear Friends. God love you.

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