Monday, November 24, 2008

Preparing for the Preparation

Advent is sneaking up on me. A month ago, I started thinking about it, and planning for it. Then I got busy, and it got away from me again. It starts in just 6 days. (Actually, I started this post last week, and just had to update the "9" with a "6." Even posting about Advent is getting away from me).

Last year, we celebrated with a short prayer service around the Advent wreath every night. This year, we will continue the prayer service, but are adding the Jesse Tree to our evening activities. Using Karen's suggestion, I bought a small tree at the dollar store this morning, on which to hang our colored, paper disks. I loved looking at all of the handmade, salt dough and felt ornaments on others' Jesse Trees last year. I wanted to spend time this November making ornaments with my kids, but it didn't happen. Oh, well. One thing at a time. Next year, perhaps we can upgrade the ornaments. Or not.

One tradition we started last year was our prayer chain. When BigBro was a toddler, I made him a paper chain countdown for Christmas. He loved the visual of seeing Christmas get closer every day. Every year after that, I made a chain for each child. Last year, we added one small change. For each paper slip, each child named one person (or group of people) they wanted to pray for. I wrote it down, and slipped the paper in loops. Every night, as we gathered around the Advent wreath for our prayer service, each child took one loop off their chain, and we prayed especially for those people and their intentions.

But Advent is not just for the kids. It is also a time for me to explore some deeper spiritual practices. Last year, I experimented with daily mass on a regular basis. It didn't take right away, but it made an impression, and by summer, I was getting daily mass more and more often. Now, daily mass is a staple in my life.

This year, I am planning a few small changes for Advent, and I am anticipating that they will help me to keep my focus on Jesus Christ throughout this season. The first is one I am so very proud to share: I have nearly completed all of my Christmas shopping. Oh, there are still a few little, last minute things I need to do. But the bulk of it is done, helped in large part by our scaling back this year, making more gifts (which is not done yet), and changing our focus/expectations.

The second change is that I plan to study and meditate on the Gospel According to Matthew this season. I've been feeling very called to Matthew lately, and the plan is to take it one chapter a day. I've fallen away from my time with the Scriptures in recent months, and I am looking forward to a more focused time with God's Word.

And finally, I am planning to re-institute my small penitential practice. This year, I've decided to forego all beverages other than water. Trading my diet cherry Pepsi or iced tea for water is a small way for me to keep Jesus in my mind and my heart as I go throughout the ordinariness of my days.

But, mostly, I am just looking forward to Advent. I love this time of year. I love bringing out my Christmas decorations, seeing the ornaments from my childhood and DH's childhood hanging alongside the ones our children have made. I love sharing the holiday traditions I knew growing up with my children. I love making new traditions with my family. And I love sharing the joys of our faith with them... helping them to know and love Jesus as deeply as I do.

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