Are you looking to live the Advent with true Christmas joy? These 7 ideas can help you Comments

Are you looking to live the Advent with true Christmas joy? These 7 ideas can help you Comments

Erika J. Ahern, a Catholic mother of six, writer on parenting and family issues, and author of Outside the Box, wrote in the National Catholic Register seven tips that can help us experience Advent with true Christmas cheer.

Ahern noted that while pre-Christmas activities such as concerts, school pageants, special choir rehearsals or ballets will be canceled or limited this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still possible to prepare for Christmas with true “Christmas cheer”.

In effect, isolation, whether voluntary or established by the authorities, gives us the opportunity to have the necessary “time and space” “to recover our Christian traditions in our homes and parishes,” he said. "If we allow it, [this time] will teach us how to wait for whom we seek, and what we should do knowing that He is near," he added.

He recalled that “at the beginning of the Church, Advent was very similar to Lent: 40 days of preparation to celebrate the birth of the Messiah”. For example, "in the sixth century, Gregory of Tours wrote that Catholics fasted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, celebrated on November 11, until Christmas Day," he said.

Today, Advent is celebrated on only four Sundays and the practice of fasting has become more flexible, aspects that the Church has observed for nearly a thousand years, he said. However, she noted that the actual practice of "Advent penance" has all but disappeared from our culture today, along with many other Christian traditions.

Ahern recalled that in the Gospel of Matthew, “Jesus told us that the crowds left the towns and cities and went out into the desert to listen to John the Baptist. In the same way, COVID restrictions have sent us into the wilderness, far from distractions." So Advent can be a quieter time to listen to the "voice of one crying in the desert," he said.

Are you looking to live Advent with true joy? These 7 ideas can help you Comments

“Just as the observance of Lent increases the joy of Easter, the observance of Advent will bear fruit in a Christmas joy you never thought possible,” he said, encouraging us to take advantage of the Advent season that God gives us this year with fasting, prayer and almsgiving. For example, instead of the office party, let's plan “a family prayer time,” and instead of spending money for Christmas cookies, give it to the poor, he added.

In this sense, he offered families 7 concrete ways to live Advent, "not as a time before Santa Claus's party", but as "a 'mini-Lent' of prayer, fasting and almsgiving" that really help us live this time of preparation with true Christmas joy.

Here are the seven tips:

1. Pray around the Advent Wreath

Every night before dinner, place the Advent Wreath in the center of your table and pray with your family before giving thanks for the food, he said Ahern. It can include one or more readings from the Mass of the day for reflection, and even sing "Come, come Lord, don't be late", while one of the members lights the corresponding candle.

On Christmas Eve you can continue this practice, but add a white candle to the center of the Advent Wreath and replace the preparation song with one more appropriate for the Christmas celebration such as “Silent Night” or “To Bethlehem, shepherds”.

2. Pray the Rosary every day

If you've always wanted to say the Rosary every day, Advent is a good time. If there are small children in the family, you can commit to praying only one decade of the Rosary each night as a family.

Take advantage of this time to honor the Virgin Mary and place your afflictions at her feet. “She will pray with you for the peace of Christ,” she said.

3. Fast From Social Media

Ahern suggested doing a fast from social media on Sundays, or several days a week. This will help you reject the frantic and false “Christmas cheer” the world offers, for the joy of Christ. These small gestures will help children remember that Advent is "like Lent."

4. Create an Advent Family “Playlist”

Creating an Advent playlist, as a kind of “family soundtrack” for this special time, can help transform the moods of each member of your family when come Christmas day.

5. Join another family in need

As a way to anticipate April Fool's Day, Ahern suggested reaching out, joining and practicing charity with a family having a new baby or mourning the loss of a loved one. You can invite them food, listen to them and pray with them, offer to help them and ask your children to make Christmas cards for them.

6. Give alms with your children

In Advent, many parishes organize food and clothing donation drives for those most in need. Get involved as a family. Although "it would be easier for mom" to take care of this task alone, it is good to involve the children, even if it means more work, as it will help them to live and remember the importance of charity in the experience of faith.

7. Encourage your family to go to Confession

Many Catholics tend to go to Confession only once a year during Lent. This year, if you haven't already gone to confession, prepare yourself and make a good confession in Advent. If possible, encourage and bring your whole family so that everyone in your household is ready to meet Baby Jesus with open arms at Christmas.