Advent is the liturgical (and traditionally, penitential) season of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, but it is easy for the significance of Advent to be lost amidst the chaos surrounding the holidays.

So how can we reclaim this holy season? How can we enter into and allow it to make our hearts a suitable dwelling place for Christ?

Keep reading for some uniquely Catholic suggestions.


Prayer

Advent Wreath

Perhaps the most popular Advent tradition, an Advent Wreath is a beautiful (and easy) way to bring prayer into your home. Light a new candle each Sunday and recite the special prayers for each one with your family. Each candle has a special meaning that can help you prepare spiritually for the birth of Jesus.

 

Jesse Tree

The Jesse Tree is another traditional Advent activity and one that is particularly good to do with young children. Each day of Advent, you will read about someone on Jesus’s family tree in the Bible and hang an ornament symbolizing the story on your Jesse Tree.

It illustrates the Story of Salvation and shows how God prepared for Jesus to be born through many generations.

 

Pray the O Antiphons

The antiphons accompanying the Magnificat in Evening Prayer from December 17-23 are commonly referred to as the “O Antiphons.” (You may recognize them as the verses of the popular Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel).

These short prayers highlight the names of the Messiah and use ancient biblical imagery to proclaim Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament hopes for a Savior.

 

Make Room for Silence

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, silence is not easy to come by. But it is in the silence of our hearts that God speaks to us, so it is extra important to carve out times for interior quiet during Advent.

Maybe wake up a few minutes earlier to spend some time journaling or turn off your phone for an hour a day. Visit Jesus in the adoration chapel or keep the music off in the car while driving to do your Christmas shopping.

Make room for silence in your day to help you more clearly hear the voice of God.

 

Add a Daily Devotional

There are so many Advent devotionals available that can help you focus your prayers on the holiness of the season. You could add the St. Andrew Christmas Novena to your daily prayer or pick up a spiritual (and seasonally appropriate) book. Pietra Fitness’ Advent Series even offers seasonal meditations, so you can pray with your body, mind, and soul.


Penance

Observe Advent Embertide

Consider observing Ember Days, three days set apart by the Church for fasting and prayer around the changing of the seasons. During Advent, the winter Ember Days fall on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13).

 

Go to Confession

Confession is one of the most powerful sacraments given to us by the Church, especially during Advent. Confession will help you prepare for both of Christ’s comings: the coming at Christmas and at the end of time.

It is an encounter with God’s loving mercy and provides the faithful with graces necessary for holiness.

 

Give Up Christmas Music

We know it’s been on the radio since the day after Halloween, but consider giving up listening to Christmas music during Advent. Besides, Christmas goes until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord so you’ve got plenty of time to listen to your favorite tunes then.

Instead, listen to traditional Advent hymns like Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, or Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.

Music can really help us more fully enter into each season, and allowing yourself to experience Advent can make for a more joyous Christmas season.


Almsgiving

Giving Tree

Brighten up someone’s Christmas by buying a gift for a local child who may not have received a present otherwise. Many parishes offer a Giving or Angel tree, making it easy for you to donate toys or clothing for families in need.

 

Organize a Food/Clothing Drive

Love your neighbors who might be going without food or shelter this winter by collecting items that meet a physical need.

Collect canned goods for your community’s food pantry, gather up coats, hats, and toiletries for the homeless in your city, or donate diapers to the crisis pregnancy center.

 

Make a Monetary Donation to Charity

Or instead of donating physical items, you can choose to support nonprofits that work with and care for others by making a monetary donation. Your donation will allow these organizations to continue to serve others and is a beautiful way to help the poor.

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