Don't Just Wait!

A couple I know recently had a baby girl. Throughout the pregnancy, the expectant parents shared photos in social media. They showed their announcement, their organizing of the baby's room, the baby shower, preparing furniture, and more.

They were waiting for the birth of their baby, but they weren't just waiting. They were actively preparing.

Do you think of Advent ("Coming") as four weeks of waiting for the celebration of Jesus' birth? Well, yes, we're waiting. But we're not just waiting. We're actively preparing - albeit in a quiet and sometimes hidden way - for the coming of Jesus.

The readings from this First Sunday of Advent remind us of the season's major themes:

• God's promise will be fulfilled.
• Seek wisdom from the Lord.
• The Lord rewards the humble.
• We need to increase in love.
• We need to increase in holiness before the Lord.
• We need to be prepared to stand before God.

We are preparing not only to remember the first Christmas, but to welcome Jesus in our hearts anew at each Eucharist and at the Second Coming.

In her Diary, St. Faustina records the ways she prepared during Advent.

November 29,[1936]. The Mother of God has taught me how to prepare for the Feast of Christmas. I saw Her today, without the Infant Jesus. She said to me: My daughter, strive after silence and humility, so that Jesus, who dwells in your heart continuously, may be able to rest. Adore Him in your heart; do not go out from your inmost being. ... Dwell with Him continuously in your own heart. He will be your strength. Communicate with creatures only in so far as is necessary and is required by your duties. You are a dwelling place pleasing to the living God, in you He dwells continuously with love and delight. And the living presence of God, which you experience in a more vivid and distinct way, will confirm you, my daughter, in the things I have told you. Try to act in this way until Christmas Day, and then He himself will make known to you in what way you will be communing and uniting yourself with Him (785).

How can we embrace silence and humility at a time when media and marketing present a whirlwind of distractions? How can we create a peaceful dwelling place for the Lord in our hearts? Here are some traditional ways that individuals and families have shared for generations.

Reflect on God's Word: Take 15-20 minutes a day to follow a Bible study plan. Or read the daily liturgical readings. Use a daily devotional. Spend more time getting to know the Lord and developing your love and trust in Him.

Light the Candles: Maintaining an Advent wreath is a cherished family tradition. Each day or each week, you can sing hymns around the wreath and recite prayers. Make your own or purchase one.

Add Some Straw: Allow children to place a piece of straw in a manger (bought or homemade) whenever they perform a deed of mercy. The more deeds, the more straw to comfort and warm the Baby Jesus. Children will learn to look for opportunities to be merciful.

Remember God's Plan: The Jesse Tree is a good way to teach young ones about salvation history through the lineage of Jesus. Add a new symbol (such as the apple, the ark, and the coat of many colors) to the tree for the 25 days leading to Christmas.

Set the Scene: Gradually set up a Nativity scene with the stable, animals, manger, shepherds, with Jesus' arrival at Christmas. Enjoy its beauty and simplicity. Tell children the meaning of each piece.

Use an Advent Calendar: For adults or children, this countdown to Christmas usually has movable windows or doors that reveal seasonal images, a verse, a short thought, or an activity idea for each day. You can make one, buy one, or use an online version.

Make Small Sacrifices: Bypass snacks or other self-indulgences, gather these savings, and offer a monetary gift to a charitable cause or someone in need.

Receive the Sacraments: Advent is a penitential season. Plan to go to Confession or a penance service. Attend Holy Mass more frequently or spend regular time in Eucharistic Adoration.

Some of these habits you might want to continue even after the season of Advent has ended. However you decide to prepare for Christmas, consider one more thing St. Faustina did: Rely on Our Lady.

Advent is approaching. I want to prepare my heart for the coming of the Lord Jesus by silence and recollection of spirit, uniting myself with the Most Holy Mother and faithfully imitating Her virtue of silence, by which She found pleasure in the eyes of God Himself. I trust that, by Her side, I will persevere in this resolution (Diary, 1398).

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