Living Advent Well

Did Advent sneak up on you this year? With Advent starting the weekend after Thanksgiving, maybe you were caught off guard and didn’t have anything planned for this liturgical season. Or maybe you’ve never really participated in Advent before, preferring to immerse yourself in the sparkle of Christmas all month, but this year you want to enter into this time of preparation.

If you want to live Advent well, but you’re not sure how to do it, Claire Dwyer has some tips for you. Claire recently stopped by Morning Air® to share some simple ideas of how to experience Advent this year, and better prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas.

“The culture has kind of merged Advent and Christmas and all the holidays into one big festive time, which is beautiful,” Claire acknowledged. “We don’t want to be a Scrooge. But really, the Church looks at it a little bit differently. It’s a time to prepare our hearts for something. It’s actually a time of penance, although we want to keep kind of that joyful anticipation as well. And that’s a real struggle.”

Claire explained that she has observed Advent her entire life, and appreciates her parents passing on this time of prayerful preparation before Christmas.

“My parents were so good at really keeping Advent sacred,” she said. “I was blessed. And of course, you don’t realize that until you’re an adult and you realize, ‘Oh, that was totally counter-cultural.’ So, thanks be to God, they really instilled that in us.”

One thing you may have noticed already is that in stores or on the radio there is Christmas music all around. And while we all have our favorite Christmas carols, Claire suggested turning on Advent-specific music to keep the spirit of anticipation while still enjoying the beautiful music of the season.

“You get in the car and you turn on the radio, even before Thanksgiving and you hear Christmas music,” she said. “And it’s hard. I mean, it’s not Christmas. It’s not. And so the Church does have music that is specific for Advent. The Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles have put out this beautiful award-winning Advent album. Advent in Ephesus. So that’s just one example of a way that you can, by listening to actual Advent music, prepare your home and your commute with some time of preparation as well.”

Advent is a time of joyful anticipation when we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. And if you have children or grandchildren in your life it can be helpful to have a way to show, in a physical way, what is happening in an interior way during Advent. Claire shared an Advent idea that is a good tradition for children and adults alike.

“There’s a tradition where there are statues of the infant Christ that you can lay into a manger and it’s removable,” she explained. “And so you keep the manger out, but without Christ in it, during Advent. You have a little basket of straw, or in some cases yellow yarn, and you encourage young children that every time they make a sacrifice or do something charitable, they can take a piece of that straw and put it in the manger. And, in effect, they’re creating a soft bed for Jesus, which is a symbol of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ child. So it gives children that necessary kind of visual and tactile representation of something very real that happens within us.”

“Then Christmas morning, it’s a great tradition to maybe wrap the baby Jesus and let the youngest child open the greatest gift of Christmas, Jesus Himself, and then place the statue into the manger.”

While different Advent traditions might work better in different seasons of life, the most important thing is observing and passing on the meaning of both the Advent and the Christmas seasons. Being able to cut through the hustle and bustle of the season and create a time of prayerful anticipation is a valuable gift that you can give to yourself and your family this year, and in the years to come.

Listen to the full conversation with Claire Dwyer below:

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