Waiting is a challenging demand for all of us. None of us like to wait. We are used to instant messages, instant answers, and instant expectations being met. However, waiting is a gift to our soul as we hope in what God has in store for us. With hope in our hearts, we know that we can endure the wait because we know that God is carefully laying our path ahead. He is creating what He had perfectly planned for us. Waiting tests our trust, our love, and our faith. Waiting makes us dig deeper into ourselves to ultimately rely on God’s plan and not on our own.
Imagine what these last few weeks would have been like for Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph waiting for the arrival of their son, the Savior of the world. What was going through their hearts and how were they preparing for His arrival? How they must have been filled with hope in God’s plan for their lives!
May that same wonder and anticipation be upon us over 2000 years later as we await the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. Let us not be too quick to jump to Christmas. As Catholics, our Christmas celebration does not begin until Christmas Eve and comes to an end on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord on January 9th. Each week of Advent has a theme associated with it to enable us to understand the mystery and profound gift coming on Christmas Day:
- 1st Week of Advent is Hope
- 2nd Week of Advent is Peace
- 3rd Week of Advent is Joy
- 4th Week of Advent is Love (Advent Themes)
As we soon begin the 1st week of Advent, we wait with hope that we have eternal life waiting for us in Heaven. We hope for the fullness of God’s love to be present in our daily lives and we hope to remain faithful to God who loves us entirely.
Each year we can receive new graces as we practice with devotion the traditions of the Advent season. As very tangible people, we create traditions to help us to incorporate our senses into our religious experiences. As we touch, think, learn, and love, we open our hearts to greater appreciation. Traditions also help us to live more intentionally the liturgical seasons each year. As we approach each tradition, let us do it with new anticipation.
Here are some of the most popular Advent traditions for Catholic families:
- The Advent wreath invites us to focus on each week of Advent by lighting the respective number of candles. It gives each week their due focus with prayers that draw our hearts into the season.
- The Jesse Tree is a daily retelling of Salvation History through Jesus’ ancestors. It walks us through the waiting of the Old Testament people for a Savior and inspires us with the faithfulness of God throughout history.
- The Advent Calendar is a way to help countdown the days until Christmas. There are many varieties of Advent calendars now from Lego to candy ones. However, its main goal is to draw us closer to Christ’s birth, so it is best to find one that helps us meet that goal!
Looking for other resources for your family to build the joyful waiting of Advent? Check out these options for increasing our anticipation for Christmas:
- Take part in the liturgical opportunities offered at the parish, such as attending daily Mass during Advent, going to Reconciliation, or spending time with Jesus in Eucharistic Adoration. A perfect way to prepare your soul for Christmas.
- Have family members each draw a random family person’s name from a hat. Then become that person’s Advent Angel by doing in secret special acts of kindness and service. Then reveal the secret on Christmas Day. It is a simple way to promote true love in a time of “I want… for Christmas!” (10 Family Traditions)
- Find time to listen to Advent (not Christmas) music. Check out free Advent song playlists https://media.ascensionpress.com/podcast/10-family-advent-traditions-to-try-this-year/ (towards the bottom of the webpage) along with other great traditional ideas.
- Teach your children a time-honored Advent Catholic hymn with this Advent craft based on the hymn “ O Come I Come Emmanuel”
- Encourage the idea of making small sacrifices for the Christ Child throughout Advent. You can make a simple wooden crib that you fill with straw each time someone offers a sacrifice for Jesus. This way each time we offer something to Jesus, we are making His manager a little bit more comfortable for Christmas day!
May we celebrate this season of waiting with Mary and St. Joseph!
What traditions will your family participate in to wait with hopeful anticipation for the birth of Jesus Christ?
Advent Themes article retrieved from https://odb.org/US/2011/12/01/advent-themes
10 Family Advent Traditions to Try This Year article retrieved from https://media.ascensionpress.com/podcast/10-family-advent-traditions-to-try-this-year/
Author: Laura Stephens, FF Sacrament Preparation Catechist