Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Making Room for Him - Family Advent Plans

(I know, I know, I'm sorry.  I just couldn't help myself from writing on it...)


I'm so in awe of all the beautiful Advent posts going around this week.  So many deep and poignant thoughts on preparing our hearts and homes during this lovely season!  It fills my heart to see so many families seeking to reclaim this season of the Church intentionally and thoughtfully.

(If you're able, take some time to muse over Melody's beautiful reflectionsSarah's thoughtsHaley's post, Jill's encouragement, another post of Haley's over at Catholic Exchange.  All so good.)

The idea of preparing our hearts by simplifying our souls and homes and activity has been echoing in many of the blogs I read.  And it is such a good thing.  Steeping ourselves in the waiting and the silence we can make room for the Infant King and have hearts ready for the graces He longs to pour out upon us come Christmas.

For our part we'll be continuing on with some of our beloved traditions and finding peace and silence and contentment in that.  We've been doing most of them so long that there is no fretting or worry about getting it all together.  The supplies are packed away in the Advent bin and the rituals and movements have now been stamped on our hearts deeply enough that even more energy can be given to deepening their meanings within our souls.

Our Advent Wreath 
We'll be rolling our candles Saturday and putting our wreath together.  Then throughout Advent we'll be pray before dinner and leaving the candles lit.  I've yet to find Advent wreath prayers that resonate with us so this year I'll be simplifying and using the daily Jesse Tree reading instead.  Doesn't that make so much sense?  I'm not sure why I never thought of it before.  Of course, we'll light the candle to a rousing rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Our Jesse Tree
After last year's exchange organized by Jessica, I am good to go with ornaments and we'll simply let the boys take turns hanging the corresponding ornament after our family evening prayer.  The reading will already have been read at dinner, remember?  Simple and good.
(Sidenote:  Does anyone else feel a sense of neurotic satisfaction that Advent this year begins on December 1 and is exactly 24 days long?  No?  Just me?)

Gifts for the King
We began this one last year and the boys really got a lot out of it.  So we'll continue on with that.  For every sacrifice or good deed they do (or simply for doing their tasks without complaining and trying their best to live virtue) they'll earn a coin to put in their bag.  At Christmas they can then use the money they've earned to buy a gift for someone in need and thereby offer a gift to Baby Jesus.  ("Whatever you have done to the least...")  It was a beautiful reminder and one that not only solidified the real meaning of Christmas gifts in their minds but also gave tangible help to our brothers and sisters.  More on the specifics in this post.

Memorizing Luke 2
I'm unashamedly stealing this idea from Sarah because it makes so much sense.  We'll be doing lessons anyway for the first few weeks of Advent at least, preferring to take our time off during the Christmas season.  Why not use the time to etch these timeless words of God into the minds and hearts of our family?  Such a good good thing.

Personal Reading
I saw the book Come Lord Jesus, Meditations on the Art of Waiting by Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C. recommended somewhere and something inside said this was the one to get.  It's out of stock on Amazon but it is available in digital form.  Luckily, they have it at a local Catholic bookstore so I'll be able to start it on time.  It sounds perfect.


Afternoon Tea and Reading
In my ideal world the quiet of Advent will be reflected in an hour or two of daily cozy afternoon time with the boys with tea and read aloud time, screens closed, radio off.  I'm not sure if this will play out in real life but a worthy goal, right?

St. Andrew Novena
We'll pray the novena nightly during our family prayer, replacing the normal nightly Rosary decade.  It is such a beautiful, rhythmic, meditative prayer.  I've grown to love it.

(To my non-Catholic readers, I'd encourage you to check it out.  Despite the name, the prayer itself is not a prayer to the saint but rather a brief contemplative meditation on the power of the Incarnation and the timelessness of Christ's authority.  You can even omit the last words on the work of the Blessed Mother if they make you too uncomfortable.  We've found it really deepens the mystery of the Incarnation within our family's worship and strengthens our adoration of Christ.)

And the usual... 
I'll still attempt to keep up with my personal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours (just Morning and Evening Prayers) and there'll be at least one trip to the confessional.  We'll still do the whole no Christmas music, shy away from parties, wait on the treats thing that has borne so much fruit. within our family.  All of those little things really do deepen the season of quiet waiting and anticipation and Advent becomes something that permeates our very home.  Oh, and Saturday evening we'll celebrate New Year's Eve like we always do.  We've got to get rid of all the treats and special food in the house somehow, you know.


All these things, none of them new, I'm going to try to do without feeling the need to do that one thing more.  After all, even the most well-intentioned of Advent activities and traditions can become silly or even dangerous idols if we are seeking them for their own sake.  It's tempting to want to always try to do that one thing more that we think will make Advent so much more meaningful when really it's just a way to keep the noise and run from the quiet.  At least for me.  The Lord doesn't need that extra craft, the cute activity for your kids (whose work to benefit ratio is way out of balance anyway), or that new idea you saw on Pinterest in order to be pleased with our Advent.  In fact, it can distract us and we can miss the point.  Instead, He wants quiet, stilled, prepared hearts.  And so we will be content in the quiet and steep ourselves in Him rather than in activity.  Well, that's the aspiration, at least.

So this year I think I'm actually going to challenge myself to one thing less.  Each day.  I'm not even sure exactly what that's going to look like exactly yet.  But I feel the Lord putting it on my heart that every day I want to let Him help me let go of one thing be it in my heart, my home, or my life.  Making room for Jesus to bring the gifts that He so longs to bestow.  After all, that is the entire point of this whole Advent thing anyway.  Making room for Him.




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15 comments:

  1. The book you are reading sounds GREAT!

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    1. I'm excited about it! From the title it sounds like it could be be a good one in your situation, too. Waiting can be so hard!

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  2. I love the St. Andrew's Novena as well. I don't think I"ve ever been able to accomplish praying it 15 times a day though. Do you pray it 15 times in a row...at at seperate times throughout the day. It seems more meaningful (to me) to do it separately but I know I wouldn't get to that.

    Memorizing Luke 2 is a great idea. We do memorization for our homeschoool anyway, so that would be a great thing to add.

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    1. Can I give my two cents?...I *think* it's similar to praying a decade of the Rosary. Instead of 10 Hail Mary's in a row, its 15 novena prayers in a row. That permits the time to really sit and contemplate the Incarnation for a few minutes each day as you repeat the prayer over and over. If I tried to pray it 15 different times a day I think I might make it into a sort of "checklist"... maybe that's just me?

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    2. Yep, that's what we do and we do it together during our family prayer time. Very similar to a Rosary decade. I would never remember to do it all through the day but it sounds like a neat variation if it works better for some!

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  3. Awesome - except you stole the title of my post for this Friday. : ) Oh well...I don't think we have the same readers so I'll keep it.

    I'm thinking of stealing Sarah's idea of memorizing Luke 2 also....it's just so good.

    Thanks for the side note about the St. Andrew Novena...I'll check it out.

    Happy Turkey Day to all of you.

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    1. Ha, oops! Sorry! You are so organized to have posts planned out like that! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!!

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  4. Mary- yes, I also have the neurotic satisfaction about Advent beginning on Dec 1. Hooray for accurate Advent calendars! ;)

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    1. Yes! Me too! Andrew and John Paul and I are immensely satisfied - Cecilia and the twins couldn't care less :P

      And I love your idea for encouraging charity - definitely keeping that in mind for this year or next... Our Advent is still in kind of bare minimum mode and I still don't think we have time to kick it up a notch... Next year I think I'll have things more under control!

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  5. I love reading your Advent posts. This is my first year observing advent with more than an advent wreath, but I'm keeping it simple with the Jesse Tree readings (no trees or ornaments this time) and I'm definitely using Sarah's idea to dedicate some brain space to Luke 2.

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    1. That is a very very wise thing! It's easy to get overwhelmed, right? May God bless your Advent, Willow!

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    1. Praying for you, Erin, as you get ready to meet that precious little one! Nothing like being pregnant during Advent.

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  7. What a treat to read about your Advent plans, Mary. Thanks for linking up!

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