This week the Church begins the season of Advent, the first season of a new liturgical year, and the time we set aside to prepare for the coming of Christ: both his coming into the world at Christmas, and his return in glory at the end of time.
One challenge facing us—and parents especially—is keeping Advent as its own season, while all around us, the world seems steeped in Christmas, which for us doesn’t begin until Christmas Eve. With all the shopping, entertaining, and advertising we have to contend with, how do we keep Advent as a time of prayerful preparation?
I recommend the traditional Advent Calendar. These calendars, which you can find at most bookstores or online, usually feature a series of dated doors or pockets, which you open one per day, usually from the first of December until Christmas day. They come in hundreds of different styles, but the ones I prefer have a scripture verse for each day. Many families make it part of their evening ritual to open the day’s calendar entry, and say a brief prayer together. It’s hard to imagine a more effective counterpoint to the commercialism of the holiday shopping reason that a few moments of quiet prayer at the end of each day.
If you’re looking for a similar approach that’s geared more toward adults than children, I recommend Stephanie Collins’ book, “Living the Days of Advent and the Christmas Season 2002.” This inexpensive little book provides plenty of food for thought every day. In fact, it’s designed with pages that tear out, so you can carry them with you, or stick them on the refrigerator to remind you to pray and reflect throughout the day. “Living the Days of Advent and the Christmas Season 2002” is available at bookstores, or online at www.paulistpress.com. If your local bookstore doesn’t carry advent calendars, there are more than 100 available online at amazon.com.