Did anyone else take a quick peek at the liturgical calendar and realize Advent is less than a month away, then promptly start freaking out? Surely I can’t be the only one.
Although it’s meant to be a season of preparing our hearts, minds, and homes for a little baby born in Bethlehem, Advent tends to end up being a season of stress instead of calm preparation. The holiday to-do list grows longer and longer by the day, and before we know it, we’ll be lighting that first purple candle.
Take a deep breath, friend. We’ve got this.
If “Advent” is synonymous to “nervous” and “anxious,” here are eight things you can start doing now to prepare and calm your heart for the upcoming liturgical season. You’re not alone - I’m incorporating these things into my life, too!
1. Realize you don’t have to have a Pinterest-perfect Advent
If you type “liturgical living” into Pinterest, you’ll be flooded with Advent inspiration. But if you’re like me, you’ll also be flooded with the realization that no many how many things you pin, there’s no way you’re going to become that crafty in the next thirty days (or a lifetime, for me at least).
You don’t have to have the perfect Advent calendar, tradition, Jesse tree, wreath, or devotions to celebrate Advent. You just have to show up and let yourself be seen by the baby Jesus who wants to make a home in your imperfect heart. It’s not going to look perfect. That’s okay.
2. Create an Advent play list
Yes, songs like “Here comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” are cute and fun (and admittingly annoying after hearing it for the 45th time on the radio). However, there’s not much of an Advent theme going on in those Christmas songs.
So, take time right now to create an Advent playlist on your favorite music listening device. I loved Life Teen’s playlist from last year, but this year I’m going out on a (Christmas tree) limb and making my own. Feel free to drop your favorite Advent tunes in the comments and I’ll add them in (and share with you all later in the Advent season!)
3. Plan out your prayer time
We all know what happens to those Advent journals. Some years we’re on top of it, and other times we make it to Christmas lucky to have written in half of the pages.
So now, while things are still calm before the holiday season starts up, pencil in time in your calendar for a daily prayer schedule. This doesn’t mean that you have to block of hours and hours for meditation or Scripture reading. Start with fifteen minutes during your lunch break or over breakfast coffee and build from there.
But don’t feel like you have to wait until lighting that first purple candle to start that prayer time! Kick it off now, while things are quiet, so that it’s already a habit by the time Advent rolls around!
4. Take the focus off of you
When I prepare for liturgical seasons, especially Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up thinking about myself. I want to make sure I have things all set up, and that I’m on top of my holiday schedule. A lot of times I find myself wanting to prove to everyone else and their Instagram followers that I have it all together - which couldn’t be further from the truth.
As an antidote, spend this time leading up to the holidays (and time in the holiday season, too!) taking the focus off yourself and focusing on others. Christmas offers such a beautiful opportunity for radical generosity and love. We’re preparing our hearts for God, who gave his only Son for us. It doesn’t get more generous than that.
Whether it’s volunteering locally or leaving room in the margins of your day to really encounter others, start shifting your focus off of yourself (and the things of Christmas) and onto the people around you.
5. Get outside
I live in Kansas, and the fall trees are so gorgeous right now. Last weekend, Joseph and I went on a leaf watching adventure and found the most vibrant trees in our city. But we’ll blink and all of those leaves will be on the ground. Then we’ll blink again and we’ll be scraping ice of our car windows and shoveling snow (not looking forward to that, if you can’t tell).
When I get stressed, I tend to stop moving. I sit inside my house, not wanting to leave or do anything. Don’t let preparation for Christmas paralyze you. Between now and December, make time to intentionally get outside and enjoy the current season of Fall. And if you’re in a place where Christmas means beach visits and BBQ, I’m jealous. You enjoy that!
6. Adjust your expectations
Think this Christmas season will go off without a hitch? The bad news is, something will more than likely go wrong. The turkey won’t make it, the cousins will be late, and there’s a good chance that you’ll forget something and remember after it’s too late.
Instead of expecting the perfect, Instagram-worthy Advent and Christmas season, begin adjusting your expectations to focus more on the real reason we spend weeks preparing our homes for the birth of Christ - it’s not because he expects expensive gifts or a Pinterest Christmas tree. He wants our hearts.
7. Pull the Advent wreath out of storage (or pick one up)
If there’s one thing that I learned from working at a Catholic book and gift store, it’s that Advent candles fly of the shelves fast. But that’s not why you should bring up the Advent wreath from the basement or head out to snag one.
The candles are meant to remind us that Christ comes into our life and lights up the darkness. The greenery is meant to be a reminder that there’s something that lasts longer than the Christmas stockings and lights - we’re meant for the eternal.
Advent may be a month away, but it’s never too early to remind ourselves about the importance of this upcoming solemnity and celebration. However, there is such a thing as playing Christmas music too early, but that’s a whole other blog post.
Plus, this way you won’t be making a midnight run for Advent wreath candles come December 1st. We’ve all been there. That’s no fun.
8. Find a confession line
Nothing makes my heart happier than seeing long lines at the confessional during Advent and Lent. No, I’m not kidding. I know it can be tough to stand in line for longer than you expected, especially if you’re juggling little kids and busy schedules. But there are so many souls reconciling with Jesus and his body on earth and it makes my heart so. happy.
But, that being said, it’s never too early to start preparing your heart for the baby Jesus. It’s hard to make a baby comfy in a heart that’s stifled in sin. So don’t wait for Advent to hit up the confessional, make confession a habit between now and Christmas (and beyond!).
Confession make you squirmy? Me, too. In fact, I have to drag myself to confession regardless of the liturgical season. But what I’ve found is the more often I go, the less I hate going. And let’s be honest, I need all of the grace I can get in the sometimes-craziness of the Christmas season!