Greetings and welcome to The Joy of Advent!
So many times, our Advent season, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, are filled with angst about gift-giving, hosting gatherings and the like. But, for true Christians, Advent is a time of joy! Its name means “to come to.” We are waiting in hope and joy for the celebration of the birth of our savior, the coming of Christ into our lives through the Eucharist, and the second coming of Christ at the end of time. There’s a lot there to be joyful about, don’t you think?
Let’s work on putting the Joy of Christ back into Advent. I’m not saying we need to abandon our traditions of gift-giving and cookie-making — those are all fruitful ways to connect to family and friends in Christ — but let’s put some holiness into our lives as well. If it’s not already there, work on infusing some of that joyful waiting that signals the coming of Christ.
Here are some ideas for getting into the true spirit of Advent:
—Fast. I know what you’re thinking, “Wait a minute. It’s this supposed to be a joyful season?” Yes, it is. However, in the Christian tradition, great feasts are typically preceded by a period of fasting. While fasting is not as prominent in the church today, it can help us grow closer to God and feel the joy of the feast more fully. Try abstaining from meat on Fridays as you do during Lent, limiting snacking between meals, or fasting all day until the evening meal once a week. Perhaps limiting all those pre-holiday treats will make the holiday even sweeter.
Don’t forget that you can also fast from activities that lead you away from God. Turn off your phone for one afternoon or evening each week and pray or read scripture. Fast from social media during the week. There are many options here.
–Pray a daily devotional. Find a book of Advent devotionals or sign up for one online. There are all kinds of these prayers available. Simply read and pray them daily. Take 10 minutes before bedtime or in the morning.
–Light an Advent wreath. You witness the Advent wreath lighting at church each week, but perhaps adding one to your home will help keep Advent top-of-mind. Light it during family or personal prayer time, and keep it in a prominent place in your home. Some families even make their own wreaths to make them more special.
–Hold off on decorating. This is a difficult one, but many times, when we decorate on Thanksgiving and keep the decorations up through Christmas, we lose the sense of waiting and subsequent joy on Christmas day. You might choose to put up a tree but leave the decorating for Christmas Eve or wait to put up your outdoor lights. Then, remember that the Christmas season lasts through Epiphany, or Little Christmas, so you may choose to leave your tree up until then in celebration.