Advent—that wonderful time of preparation leading up to Christmas—begins December 3. During the time before Christmas, we spend countless hours choosing the perfect gifts for our loved ones, preparing feasts, and making travel plans, but do we also prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord? Do we make sure we are in the right frame of mind to accept the gift God has selflessly given us by gifting us His Son?
Many people lament that the joy of the season is sometimes overshadowed by the purchasing of gifts, by traveling, and by hosting family events—those exact things that should make this season fun and joyful. Sometimes the things that we should recognize as gifts in life seem like drudgery.
But if we keep God as our focus, we will be better able to feel that inner peace and joy that should come with the Advent and Christmas seasons.
To help you make the most of this Advent, we have created a list of unique ways you can find joy this holiday season. In addition to praying and giving alms to the poor, adding as many of these as possible to your days will help ensure that you remember the reason we celebrate Christmas—to not only welcome that tiny baby into our world but to welcome Him into our hearts.
1. Spend time in Adoration.
Many churches have 24-hour Adoration or at least a day of the week to spend with Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament. Quiet the outside world for just an hour each week, sit in His presence, and talk to Him.
2. Read a daily reflection book.
Spend time in contemplation each day with this daily reflection booklet from the Culture of Life Studies Program. Awaiting the Gift of Christ uses lessons from the saints and wisdom from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to help you build a culture of life in your homes and communities.
3. Download the Hallow app pray.
The Hallow app has wonderful prayers, meditations, and readings to help you strengthen your relationship with God.
4. Read a Catholic book.
Grow closer to God by reading the Bible or a book that teaches you about the faith. Seek Catholic authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Scott Hahn, or Peter Kreeft; all are fantastic writers whose books will help you explore the faith.
5. Listen to or read good sermons.
Ascension posts the sermons of Fr. Mike Schmitz—host of the Bible in a Year podcast and Catechism in a Year podcast—on its site. Fr. Jim Chern, director of the Newman Center at Montclair State University, posts his weekly sermons online. Bishop Robert Barron also posts sermons online.
6. Read age-appropriate Christmas-themed books to your children.
Even adults benefit from children’s books. The time spent cuddling with kids and talking about a story is priceless.
7. Go to confession.
Now is a great time to make an examination of conscience, to ask forgiveness for your sins, and to promise to amend your life.
8. Listen to a Catholic podcast or radio show.
You can do this while cooking, cleaning, or driving to various stores. The National Catholic Register has a list of 10 Catholic podcasts, but you can find a longer list here. For lighthearted fun, listen to The Catholic Guy Show with host Lino Rulli.
9. Visit new churches.
Set a goal to visit two or three new churches in your area each week. Take time to look at the statues, the paintings, the Stations of the Cross, or to just pray at the foot of the crucifix.
10. Attend a retreat.
Catholic retreats are a great way to shut out the outside world and to focus on becoming closer to God. Some retreats are just a day, and some are a weekend or longer. Search the Internet for a retreat near you.
11. Listen to holy music.
Christmas music is fun and gets you in the Christmas mood, but religious music that inspires or that helps you ponder the sacrifice of our Lord offers peace and tranquility.
12. Forgive someone.
This may be difficult, but we should always keep in mind the words of the Our Father, where we ask Jesus to forgive us “as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” If we want forgiveness, we must offer it to others. Taking that first step and making a decision to forgive will not only bring us peace, but it will go a long way toward mending relationships.
Advent should be full of joy and anticipation for the birth of Christ. By incorporating some or all of the above activities into the next month, we will undoubtedly transform our lives and grow closer to our heavenly King.
This article first appeared in Catholic 365 at catholic365.com/article/32575/12-ways-to-make-this-advent-a-holy-season.html.