Planning for Advent

Planning for Advent

I’ve spent more time this week than I would like to admit looking for candy corn. Woe to the mom who signs up to bring candy corn to her kindergartner’s Thanksgiving Feast. While ubiquitous throughout October, candy corn is almost impossible to find just a week or two into November. I’ve been searching stores all over town and where I expect to find the seasonal holiday treats there are only Christmas candy and stocking suffers as far as the eye can see.

Clearly retailers have moved on. The retail calendar skips straight from Halloween to Christmas because Christmas is more profitable. But we don’t need to take our seasonal cues from the places we shop. The way we measure and pass time tells a story about what we value. Retailers are telling a story about pulling the right nostalgic levers in the most profitable seasons of the year. But Christians can shape our lives to tell the story of Christ and his Church every day.

The Church Calendar guides us through the story of Jesus and begins with the season of Advent as we anticipate his arrival. We love Christmas too but not for the sentimental reasons that animate many of our cultural Christmas traditions. Christmas is the invitation into a profound theological mystery: God has come to live with us. That deserves our attention and preparation.

So before you are swept away in a wave of holiday excitement, take a moment to plan your Advent season.

When is Advent? Mark the dates of the Advent season on your calendar: December 2 through 24. Advent is always the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. 

What is Advent? In the Advent season we remember that Christ has come and he is coming again. In response, we prepare our hearts and lives for Jesus. 

Despite the chocolate filled Advent calendars for sale, Advent is a season of reflection and fasting. Not many Anglicans actually fast food during Advent but you may find it meaningful to pare down your life to allow for more time for spiritual preparation.

How will you prepare spiritually? Restoration will offer a devotional book for adults and teens called The Meaning is in the Waiting by Paula Gooder. We will sell copies for $10  or you can buy a Kindle copy. Choose a time each day to read and pray as you prepare for Christmas.

You may want to commit to read it with your family or choose an age appropriate Advent book for the children in your household, like a Jesse Tree storybook that leads children through Bible stories about the generations of people who anticipated the coming of Jesus.

What will you do during Advent? Put meaningful items in your home during the season. Buy or make an Advent wreath. Put out an empty stable and gradually add the rest of the nativity figures as Christmas approaches. Or put away items in your home to create a sense of sparseness that will be filled when Christmas arrives. Find ways to tell the story of Advent with your senses. 

You can also make a list of your family’s favorite seasonal activities. How can you schedule them to tell a story of preparation, waiting, and anticipation? Our family waits as long as we can to buy a Christmas tree and then we slowly decorate it so that it is complete on Christmas Eve.

And of course, the Advent season is full of ways to give to others. Think of ways to give generously during Advent and Christmas that will show the self-giving love of Jesus to those who expect it least.

What are you preparing for? Advent leads up to the Feast of Christmas. December 25 through January 5 are the 12 days of Christmas when we celebrate the Jesus has come to us. Simplifying your life during Advent makes celebrating a long Christmas season even sweeter!

I hope that you tell a beautiful story of waiting and preparation in your homes and lives this Advent season. Also, I am especially grateful to the CVS employee who patiently helped me dig to the bottom of a markdown bin to find several bags of candy corn for the Thanksgiving feast. She saved the day!