Advent is the liturgical season when Catholics prepare for the second coming of Christ, and remember the events surrounding His first coming in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Given how hectic this time of year can be, it’s easy to lose sight of Advent and the wonderful opportunity for growth in holiness that it offers us.
I’m suggesting three things you can do to make this year’s Advent awesome:
1) Go to Confession
Consider this: if you knew that some famous celebrity were coming to visit you, then you would probably clean yourself up a bit. You might shave, do your hair, or put on some nicer clothes. You’d want to look your best.
Similarly, since Christ visited us, and will visit us again, you should take time during Advent to clean up your soul. There’s no better way to prepare yourself for Christ’s coming than by having your sins forgiven in the Sacrament of Confession.
Most parishes have regular, Saturday Confession, but many also provide special penitential services during Advent. Check your local parish for Confession schedules.
2) Deck the Halls
Try decorating for Advent. There are plenty of creative options that go beyond the standard nativities or wreaths. Have a favorite saint whose memorial falls during Advent? Set out a new statue or icon on a home altar. Jesse Trees not only make great decorations, but the scripture readings that go with each of the twenty-four ornaments can take your daily devotions to a whole new level.
Starting December 17th, the Church prays the O’ Antiphons to heighten her anticipation for the coming of Christ. Try painting symbols of the antiphons and hanging them on your wall during the seven days preceding Christmas Eve. If you really must put up a tree during Advent, then wrap it with purple ribbon, and decorate it with purple and silver bulbs. On Christmas morning, replace the bulbs on your “Advent Tree” with multicolored ones and other traditional decorations.
3) Give Alms
Although we typically associate almsgiving with Lent, it is fitting to give gifts to the needy during Advent as a way of preparing for Christmas, the season of giving.
Most parishes provide “Christmas Giving Trees” with tags suggesting gifts you can purchase for those less fortunate. Advent is also a great time for collecting and donating nonperishable food items, or gently used clothing to the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul. If you don’t have much to give by way of treasure, then perhaps you could give some of your time by volunteering to help clean and decorate your local parish.
Regular Mass attendees might consider giving up their usual seats during Advent, or even Christmas, for families with out-of-town guests, or for Catholics who only attend on the holidays.