What are you doing this November 30 to December 24? Will you be shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking, and trying to squeeze in some time sitting by a crackling fire? Like many, you probably have a long list of what needs to get done in time for Christmas Day. The race is on and every minute matters. During this busy time, how many times will you think about Jesus, Blessed Mary, and St. Joseph? How many times will you remember to thank God for giving us His only Son so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life?” How many times will you reflect on Blessed Mary and the role she played in our redemption by giving birth to the “Son of the Most High?”
Advent is the Latin word for coming or arrival. As much as we focus on December 25, the four weeks before Christ’s birth are just as important. This period of time should be spent preparing our minds, hearts, and souls for Jesus’ birth. As a Catholic how do we prepare for Advent? We take a good look at our lives and ask ourselves, “Have I been living my life according to God’s will? Do I love my neighbor as I love myself? When people look at me do they see God present in my life?” If you’ve said no to any of these questions, Advent is the perfect time to clear the proverbial “cobwebs” and start anew. It’s the opportunity to make the necessary changes so that your life mirrors the life of Jesus whose birth we soon will exult. It’s never too late and God always mercifully gives us a second, third…millionth chance.
Celebrate Advent with visual reminders
During Advent, the Church is filled with symbols. These symbols are an outward reflection of our faith as well as visual reminders to keep our focus where it matters: on the Lord. The most popular symbols are Advent wreaths, nativities, Jesse Trees, and Advent calendars. Make this Advent season more meaningful for you and your family by including some or all of these religious symbols in your home.
Advent Wreath: this circular wreath is made of different evergreen or pine branches and is rich in meaning. The circular shape symbolizes God’s continuous love for us—His love has no beginning and no end. The lush evergreens represent God’s promise to us of life everlasting. Evergreens live year-round, even in the dead of winter; just like an evergreen, God’s promise to us is always alive. The four candles that are lit each Sunday signify God’s light; He is the “light of the world” and will always be the beacon of light in our life. While Advent wreaths are typically found in churches, many families include them in their homes as part of their Christmas decorations. Older children can take turns lighting the candles each week as everyone recites prayers. The following is the blessing of the Advent wreath prayer that can be said at the start of Advent:
Lord our God,
we praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
He is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
He is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
He is the Savior of every nation.
let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light
be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Jesse Tree: this tree can be made from any type of branches or evergreen clippings, and represents Jesus’ genealogical roots. Traditionally, it is decorated each day with different symbols representing significant moments throughout the Bible—starting with the Old Testament and continuing to Jesus’ birth. Jesse was the father of King David, and God promised David his kingdom would last forever: “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Isaiah 11:1-2). The Jesse Tree Activity Kit SKU: ABCH010 has everything you need, including paper ornaments and Scripture readings and prayers, to help you start the Jesse tree tradition in your home.
Nativity: the nativity, or crèche, is the most recognized images of Advent and the Christmas season throughout the world. Setting up a nativity in your home is a poignant reminder of what the season is all about: Christ being born unto us to save us from sin. Whether it’s a nativity consisting of Blessed Mary, St. Joseph, and the Christ child (SKU # RM0014) or an elaborate scene complete with animals and shepherds (SKU # RMCH009), there are many choices when it comes to nativity scenes. Encourage children to visit the crèche daily and to sit in silent reflection and pray.
Advent Calendar: an Advent calendar is a fun way to involve young children during the Advent season. Children will learn how to wait patiently as they get closer each day to the joy of the Lord’s birth.
This Christmas season, as you make you to-do list, be sure to put the following at the top of your list:
- Think about Jesus, Blessed Mary, and St. Joseph throughout Advent
- Remember to thank God for giving us His only Son so that “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
- Reflect on Blessed Mary and the role she played in our redemption by giving birth to the “Son of the Most High.”