by Rick Cheek
“May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mk 13:36-37)
Those last words from the Gospel of Mark for the First Sunday of Advent really hit home. What are we going to do to “prepare the way of the Lord”?
During this time, we can’t use the excuse of pandemic to “not be ready.” We may be in lockdown; that doesn’t mean we’ll be locked out.
While it is a time of waiting and preparing, it can also be a time of growing as a family in faith and love knowing there is a beautiful gift at the end, the gift of Jesus.
Take time to set up a prayer space with an Advent wreath. Each night, offer prayers of thanksgiving, as well as prayers for those whose holidays may not be full of joy or promise.
Just like during Lent, you can have a jar set up on your kitchen counter where all spare change can be collected.
Also, think about giving up little things that you really enjoy doing this time of year: eating out, fancy coffees, ice skating — and put the money that would have been spent on those activities in the jar.
At the end of the Advent season, donate that money to a family in need or Catholic Charities.
When you decorate your Christmas tree this year, pick a theme with Christ in mind.
In past years, my wife Rebecca has decorated our tree with “titles of Jesus” from Scripture: King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Lion of Judah, Light of the World, etc. Be creative and make an ornament to match each title.
We’ve also decorated a Nativity tree, covered only in stars and angels, with our Nativity set up below the tree. When you finish decorating the tree, gather the family and bless your tree with holy water.
While there are many ways to celebrate as you prepare for Jesus’ coming, first and foremost we must celebrate the sacraments — especially reconciliation.
Without regional penance services this Advent due to pandemic restrictions, you will need to check your own parish for confession times. If you have to, make one appointment for the whole family. Priests are adding more times to accommodate parishioners.
If you’re still struggling for ideas on how to better observe Advent, be sure to sign up for our “Tuesday’s Toolbox,” put out twice a month by our office and the office of children’s catechesis (click here to sign up).