Preparing for Advent: Waiting in Joyful Hope

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Growing up in my family home, we were ready to celebrate Christmas the day after Thanksgiving, just like the rest of America.  Advent was something we  did at Mass on Sunday with the lighting of the Advent wreath.  It was not something that we did at home.  It was not something we lived.  Then I got married 3.5 years ago, and I began meeting godly women who try to live out the liturgical year over the secular calendar.  I started to pay attention to the movements and rhythms of the Church and discovered what I had been missing.

Advent makes us give up instant gratification.  It is a season of waiting in joyful hope.  As Catholics we wait for two things: First the Incarnation on Christmas and Second, we are still waiting for the Second Coming of Our Lord.  Look at it is this way.  The Jews waited 4000 years for the Messiah.  I can wait a month to jump into Christmas in order to fully live out Advent.  My husband and I go shopping for our Christmas Tree on Gaudete Sunday (3rd Sunday of Advent).  If we did not travel at Christmas, we would wait until Christmas Eve.  The Church does not start celebrating Christmas until Christmas Eve Vigil.
Waiting can be hard.  We are surrounded by Christmas carols, trees, decorated houses and stores, and holiday food.  It is hard to not partake.  Perhaps slowly work Advent into your family’s traditions this year.  Get an Advent wreath and light it each night.  Imagine what the Jews felt like as they waited for the promised Messiah.  Truly think about what it means to wait for the Second Coming.  Are we all ready?
Here are some suggestions for living out Advent more fully:
*If you have not done so already, push back buying your tree a week or two.  Or wait until Gaudete Sunday like us.
*Wait to turn your Christmas lights on outside until Christmas Eve and then keep them up during the liturgical Christmas season that can go well into January depending on when you decide to stop.  Some cultures celebrate Christmas until the Presentation of Our Lord and others until his Baptism, and some until Epiphany.
*Do a Jesse Tree with your family.  My friend Christine over at Domestic Vocation has a full guide to doing a Jesse Tree.
*Light the Advent wreath during dinner.
*Light the Advent wreath and do a prayer reflection with your family.  End singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel
*Postpone Christmas music at least until Gaudete Sunday. Now this one is hard in our culture.  You may have to bring CDs or your iPod in your car.
*If you are not ready to jump fully into Advent, perhaps just make Sundays a Christmas free time that focuses on the beatiful season of Advent.
Remember we are a joyful people.  We know that Christ is coming and that is why we wait in joyful hope.  Advent can teach us a lot about the spiritual life.  Sometimes we must be patient and wait for joy, but God uses that waiting to shape us.
How can you bring Advent into your home? Do you have Advent traditions that you do in your family? Share them in the comments section.

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