On the day before Halloween, my local grocery store was packing up all vestiges of fall, harvest, and anything in shades of orange and brown. They were putting up a sparkling winter scene set off by plenty of red and green. 

The dentist’s office had Christmas music playing a full three weeks before Thanksgiving. The avalanche of catalogs and ads started around the same time. With the onslaught of “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!” arriving earlier every year, fending it off in favor of a slower, quieter season can seem like a losing battle. Is it pointless, this effort we Catholics (and many other Christians) make to take a little space for Advent? 

Advent, like Lent, is a season of preparation. In Lent, penitence takes a greater share of our preparation. I wonder sometimes if that’s why Advent doesn’t always get its due. For Lent we are often encouraged to sacrifice and pray and fast. There are things to DO. Advent, in many ways, is a season of surrender. It is “waiting in joyful hope.” But really, when everything around us is already screaming Christmas, how can we take the time in this busy season to just wait? How can we take time for stillness? 

Here are five tips to help you hang onto Advent and allow yourself and your family to experience the grace of the season.

  1. Check the calendar. Look at the month with an eye for making space for stillness. Of course there are commitments that must be kept, but give yourself permission to clear the calendar for some quiet nights at home or for field trips that are ‘stillness focused’ — concerts with music that calls for reflections, encounters with nature or nighttime drives to see the lights. Celebrate the saints of the season, especially St. Nicholas on December 6th.
  2. Decorate with intention. Are the crèche and Advent wreath part of your household décor? Advent up your house, especially if you like to deck the halls early. Post this printable Advent calendar on the fridge or bulletin board as a reminder to stop and pray.
  3. Swap out secular for sacred. Add a religious movie to the rotation. Excellent choices for picture books abound for smaller kids. If you’re a crafter, sub in something spiritual (Pinterest plus Advent, you’ll be amazed how much is there!) and let your crafting time also be a time of prayer. Add an Advent reflection to your morning or evening reading.
  4. Practice the virtues that Advent points us toward — patience, hope, joy, love — in your daily living. Choose one to focus on each week.
  5. Let the church help. The readings and music of the season can lead us in the direction we want to head. One of my favorite Advent songs is Dan Schutte’s Holy Darkness. There are many more beautiful songs. Catholic News Agency has put together a list of mostly traditional hymns and carols for Advent and the major Catholic music publishers all have Advent collections. The readings for the Advent season and other resources can be found on the Creighton Online Ministries page.