Staying focused on Advent: seven family-centered ideas for how to live liturgically this Advent
It seems like Advent season sneaks up on us every year, doesn’t it? With school back in session, schedules get busier, and the days get shorter. Halloween and Thanksgiving come and go, and people turn their attention to Christmas shopping and the new year. The true meaning of Advent can get lost in the chaos.
It is easy to get distracted by the material aspect of preparing for Christmas, but it is important to take time and focus on the true meaning of those four weeks — waiting and preparing for the birth of Jesus.
To stay focused on the true meaning of Advent, here are seven ways you can live liturgically at home this Advent season.
1. Set up an Advent wreath
While an Advent wreath makes for a great Christmas decoration, it is so much more than that. Lighting the candles each week can help us visualize the passage of time and focus on what is to come at the end of the four weeks. The wreath itself is also chock-full of symbolism.
The evergreens that make up the wreath symbolize continuous life. The circular shape of the wreath symbolizes the eternity of the Lord, who has no beginning or end. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent — each of which has their own special significance. The purple candles are the liturgical color that signifies a time of prayer, penance, and sacrifice.
The pink candle is the liturgical color for joy and is lit on the third Sunday of Advent to signify the joy that was felt at the birth of Jesus.
Set up an Advent wreath in your home and light the appropriate candles before you eat dinner each night to bring you back to Advent each evening.
2. Create a prayer intentions manger
Look around in your Christmas decorations for a small manger. If you can’t find one, make one! Once you have your manger, find a special place in your house to put it. Cut a piece of paper into small strips, then write your prayer intentions on them. Fill the manger with your prayer intentions and keep them on your heart for the rest of Advent.
3. Make an Advent Tree of Kindness
One way to help children prepare for the birth of Jesus is to make an Advent Tree of Kindness! This craft project allows them to physically see the good deeds they do for others during Advent.
All you need to make an Advent Tree of Kindness are a few pieces of red and green construction paper, a marker, and some stickers. It takes only about 15 minutes to make. You can find the instructions on how to make one at bit.ly/advent_tree.
Each time your child does a good deed, they can add a sticker to the tree! It is a great way for them to practice loving one another as they head toward Christmas.
4. Participate in your parish’s Angel Tree program
While it might be named something different at each parish, the Angel Tree program is a way to help families in need during Advent. There is usually a physical Christmas tree set up in a prominent location of the church decorated with paper ornaments. These are not your normal Christmas ornaments though; they have the needs or gifts requested by poor families for Christmas.
Your family can take an ornament home, purchase the requested item, and return it back to the church to help a family in need this Advent season.
Look around your church this Advent to find an Angel Tree!
5. Visit a live nativity scene
While traditional nativity scenes are a great way to see what the birth of Jesus might have been like, a fresh way of seeing one is to visit a live nativity scene. To create one, people dress up as characters in Jesus’ birth story and set the scene of the birth. The nativity is sometimes accompanied by Christmas hymns, so it makes for a great family outing.
Check with your local church or Catholic school to see if it is hosting a live nativity scene this year — some of them even make a tradition out of it.
6. Listen to (or create your own) Advent song playlist
Listening to Christmas music is a great way to put you in the spirit of the season. A number of Christian Christmas music playlists are available already, but if you cannot find one that you like, make your own! Here is a playlist available on Spotify: bit.ly/AdventPlaylist21.
7. Donate your time, talent, or treasure
What better way to prepare for the birth of Jesus than to physically live out our faith? Consider donating your time by volunteering at a homeless shelter, food pantry, or even by doing an extra chore around the house. Donate your talents by singing in the choir or helping decorate the church. Donate your treasure by giving money to an organization in need.
Regardless of how you give, your efforts are truly the hands and feet of Christ in action this Advent season!