Every year around around this time, I long to slow down, create space, quiet my heart, and find rest. Perhaps I am weary from the toll of this chaotic world. Perhaps I need to step back from the whirlwind of everyday life and realign my priorities. Perhaps my soul is ready to once again enter into the season of Advent—the season of prayer and penance, waiting and watching for the coming of Jesus.
Advent is the perfect liturgical season for my longing. I wait for the light and warmth of Christ to illuminate the darkness of the world, which can weigh so heavily on my heart. For just as the dawn comes after the long, dark hours of night, Jesus comes to bring light and love, to dwell among us.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. // Luke 1:78-79
Perhaps you experience this longing, too?
Advent Invites Us In
Advent ushers in a new liturgical year, a new opportunity to return to the Lord. Advent invites us to encounter Christ in the simple manger in Bethlehem. It encourages us to recreate that manger scene in our own hearts, putting Christ at the center of our lives once again.
But a Christ-centered Advent does not magically happen. Nor does slowing down and creating space.
In order to truly experience the quiet, peaceful Advent that our hearts desire, we must be intentional. We must become still enough to set our gaze on the horizon and to wait and watch for the coming of Jesus. We need to remove anything that hinders our ability to remain in the quiet, especially as the holiday hype tempts us away from the real reason for the season.
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6 Ways to Prepare for a Quiet Advent Now
How do we experience Advent like we truly want to this year?
Below are six ways to prepare for a quiet Advent season starting now:
1. Center on Christ
The most necessary aspect of the Advent season is prayer. How do we want to pray this Advent? How do we want to grow in our worship of the newborn King? Do we want to:
- Use lectio divina to pray with the daily Gospel?
- Meditate more deeply on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary?
- Find one or two days during the week to attend Mass?
Additionally, And Hay Became Holy is a beautiful way to help focus our prayer this season, as it is purely fixed on the coming of Jesus in the manger. Each week is focused on different groups that were invited to the manger in Bethlehem, and it reminds us that we are invited, too.
2. Stay Rooted in Tradition
There are many rich liturgical traditions throughout the Advent season. One temptation can be to think we have to do them all. This can lead to overwhelm or busyness, and can distract us from our real desire for quiet and peace.
May I suggest a simple plan?
- Set up an Advent Wreath to gather around for prayer.
- Pick two or three favorite feast days to celebrate.
- Consider only what is most meaningful to you personally or as a family.
3. Tackle To-Dos
Often, we do not begin our Christmas to-dos until the Advent season. This creates unnecessary tension in our hearts, because our desire for quiet is confronted with a busy to-do list that seems impossible to complete in such a short amount of time.
This year, let’s try something new. From now until the first Sunday of Advent, let’s work on accomplishing some (if not most) of our Christmas to-dos:
- Order Christmas cards
- Update address list
- Buy stamps and wrapping paper
- Make and freeze cookie dough
- Finish Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving
4. Steward the Schedule
During Advent, there are many events vying for our attention: choir concerts, pageants, ugly sweater parties, and family obligations. If we say yes to it all, our schedule will not correspond with our heart’s desire for peace and quiet this Advent.
So let’s consider a few helpful reminders when stewarding our Advent schedule:
- We don’t have to do it all.
- Focus on what is necessary; not what feels impossible.
- Do what will support our decision to have a quiet, prayerful Advent.
- Create space for wonder, awe, coziness, and togetherness.
5. Simplify Decor
If we desire for all to be calm in our souls and in our schedules this Advent, we need that same quiet, restful, prayerful theme to be reflected in our living spaces. So, keep Christmas decor simple this year.
- Prominently display a Nativity scene.
- Wait to decorate the Christmas tree until Gaudete Sunday.
- Avoid too many Christmas tchotchkes, which can clutter our spaces, minds, and hearts.
- Incorporate seasonal touches (that can remain throughout winter) such as:
- Cozy blankets and throw pillows
- Quiet instrumental or sacred music
- Cinnamon, orange, and clove scents
6. Practice Penance
The penitential aspect of Advent has been somewhat forgotten, but a few liturgical customs remain that hint at the anticipatory penitence of Advent. For one, the color violet symbolizes penance and preparation. In addition, the Gloria is not sung at Mass during Advent. As in Lent, we consider Advent a season of preparation before a great feast, and this may include fasting.
As we create a quiet Advent, incorporating some penance into the season supports the quiet simplicity we desire. Here are a few ways to embrace the penitential this Advent:
- Go to Confession once or twice before Christmas.
- Fast from social media.
- Abstain from Christmas cookies, peppermint mochas, and other treats.
- Look into abiding by the Ember Days of Advent.
Be Present to the Advent Moment
As we look ahead to Advent, let us acknowledge our longing to slow down, create space, quiet the heart, and find rest in Christ. Let us lean into Jesus’ invitation to pray and prepare, to wait and watch.
Together, let’s prepare now for a quiet Advent so we can truly enter into the season of joyful anticipation for Christ’s coming this Christmas.
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