As we begin this Advent season, we are reminded that Christmas is coming! You probably have already seen Christmas decorations for sale in stores, Christmas events happening already, and started to hear Christmas music.
It’s a time we begin to decorate, make plans, buy presents, prepare food, send cards, and put up the tree.
But along with all these practical preparations, we are reminded that Advent is meant to be primarily a prayerful preparation for Christmas.
From very early on, Christians saw the importance not only of celebrating the great mysteries of Christ (His birth at Christmas, His Resurrection at Easter), but also of having a period of spiritual prayerful preparation (Advent and Lent)
So what are some ways to do this, to prayerfully prepare for Christmas?
Here are some thoughts:
Confession: While penance is not emphasized in Advent the same way it is in Lent, it still is a penitential season. That one of the ways to prepare our hearts is to attend the Sacrament of Confession
Advent Scripture Readings: Reflect on the Mass readings for Advent. Perhaps throughout the week pray and meditate with the Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday of Advent.
Celebrate Mary: Meditating on Mary this season helps prepare our hearts for Christmas as well, as her Advent was carrying Christ within her womb. We have some days of Mary leading up to Christmas. First we have the HOLY DAY (of Obligation) of the FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION of MARY, on Dec. 8.
We also have the celebration of OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE on DEC. 12. Though not a Holy Day of Obligation, it is a major Marian Feast Day for our Mexican brothers and sisters of our Church community, and a beautiful one to celebrate with them (even if you don’t speak Spanish!)
Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary: Also to help us meditate on Mary and with Mary, we can also prepare our hearts by praying each day (or frequently) the rosary, but meditating exclusively on the JOYFUL MYSTERIES of the Rosary, which meditate on the events surrounding Christ’s birth and childhood.
More Silent Prayer: Spending more time in silent, quiet, prayer is an especially good way to prepare our hearts for Christmas. Especially considering that this is usually considered such a busy season with concerts, Christmas parties, shopping, and the like, it is good to be even more intentional to spend time each week (or even better, each day), in silent, quiet prayer.
A reminder that each Thursday at St. Patrick’s in Hampton, the Church is open from 6pm-8pm for just that purpose, of quiet Adoration.
And if you’re unsure how to pray in that quiet time, the above prayers I mentioned (Advent Scripture readings, Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary), are great ways to pray in those periods.
While there are many more things I could suggest, (like an Advent wreath in your home, or the practice of a Jesse Tree, or the learning about the various Saints we celebrate in the Advent season) I think more than anything, Confession, Scripture, the Rosary, and quiet prayer, are tried and true methods that will help make this a season a prayerful preparation to help you ponder and enter more deeply into the wondrous Mystery of Christ’s birth into the world at Christmas!