The word Advent means "Coming." As we enter into the Christmas season, I've never been more grateful for the cadence and calm of the liturgical year. It helps reset my heart, guides me back into the fold of God's guiding grace and gives me a path of preparation to follow. With life swirling around me, this is a merciful gift. It gives me permission to freely relinquish the pressure to buy and compete with the world. Not that I always live that out successfully, but as long as I follow the star, I know I am not far from manger. That of course, holds the contents of The Ultimate Gift. For those who aren't familiar with Advent, apologist Jimmy Akin explains it (as listed in the General Norms):
Advent is a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation [Norms 39].
You can read the full write-up in his latest column: "10 Things You Need to Know About Advent." As I've been building a mystical little manger in my heart, this song has sprung from my lips often over the past week:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I've downloaded a 110-page booklet from Catholic Icing to help with organizing, in addition to the things I already have planned. First, will come the Advent wreath with the first candle to be lit on Sunday, December 1.
Here's how it works:
The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, five candles are typically arranged. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the world.
On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the "Prophecy Candle" in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.
On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the "Bethlehem Candle," symbolizing Christ's manger.
On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the "Shepherds Candle" and it represents joy.
The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the "Angels Candle," represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent.
Last year, we used the "O Radiant Dawn" prayer book by Lisa Hendey around the Advent wreath and it was such a special memory.
To hear the boys singing (which they rarely do) was a blessing this mom will not soon forget! They might not admit to it, but it was lovely. The wreath is like a magnet, pulling us back to remember what matters, and remind us of the light in the darkness. I highly recommend the booklet, in fact, Lisa is giving away 5 free right now, along with the booklet "Welcome, Baby Jesus." Click here to enter!
Each week night will bring a different reflection. Some nights we will pray the Rosary, other nights we will read the Bible or Saint stories, depending on what I have scheduled. Our week nights are busy, but I know we can gather for at least 10 minutes, even on our most hectic days. These are a few of the books I have set aside so far:
One of my most treasured resources (and a book I've gushed over many times before) is "Celebrating Saints and Seasons" by Jeanne Hunt. We use it year round, but especially during Advent and Lent. One of the best things I've taken from it, is "The Bethlehem Walk." The kids and I took a walk at night (well, evening really)! It gets dark so early here, that even 7:00 will do. We had a lantern and walked the quiet neighborhood, talking about the path Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem. I know the neighbors thought we were nuts! It was beautiful though. It helps you think about the "unknown roads" in our own lives, and the importance of surrendering them to God, just as Mary and Joseph did. With a special needs child and so much daily anxiety, I could definitely use the peace of Mary in my life!
Slow, but sure, things are coming together. I would love to hear your ideas, and what things have worked for your family. I pray a blessed Christmas season to all of you!
Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel's strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.