Advent is fast approaching and will be gone before we know it, particularly because it is an unusually short season this year with the 4th Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve landing on the same day. Since we only have 3 full weeks of the season, it is especially important to be intentional about how we approach our prayer life so that we arrive at the feast of Christ’s birth prayerfully prepared to receive the joy of the feast.
With that in mind, here are some tips and resources to help you prepare the “stable” of your soul for the coming of the Christ Child this Advent.
1. Give yourself silence and space to ask Jesus what He wants from you this Advent season
Perhaps there is a part of your spiritual life that needs strengthening, or that you have been meaning to focus on. Have you been considering signing up for spiritual direction, but just haven’t made that step? Been feeling a pull to a commitment to daily prayer of some sort, but have needed a push to get there? Or maybe something in this article strikes a chord. Talk to Jesus about where He wants to guide you.
2. From there, create a plan – and stick to it
Is your commitment to a daily rosary? Meditation? Eucharistic Adoration? More frequent attendance at Mass, and/or the sacrament of Penance? Write down actionable goals that are realistic. You will make more progress with something small that you can truly dedicate yourself to than by aiming for the moon and never quite having enough time to fully engage it!
3. Schedule God in
Just like you’d schedule a coffee date with a friend, make sure you are deliberately setting aside time in silence for God. We must have silence in our lives to hear His voice and respond to it. Practicing silence with God and building space for prayer in your daily schedule will give you a solid foundation for the interior life you build throughout the Advent season.
4. Consider walking the season with a saint
Is there a saint who keeps nudging you for your attention, or one whom you are particularly intrigued by? Take him or her as a patron for the season. You can use it as an opportunity to learn more about their lives and to pray for their intercession in your own, that you might encounter the Christ Child more and more deeply.
5. Engage formation
St. Teresa of Avila cautioned her sisters to never go to pray without a spiritual book, because if prayer proved dry and unfruitful, they could have recourse to spiritual reading until what they read struck a chord in their hearts and led them to contemplation. It is the same for us now as it was then – except we have rather more resources to set our hearts on fire! There are some great contenders for daily Advent reflections, conveniently delivered to your inbox, to take with you to prayer each day. Take a look at Bishop Robert Barron’s Daily Gospel Reflections, Dynamic Catholic’s Best Advent EVER program, and Redeemed Online’s Advent video series – reflections on the season by a variety of religious sisters!
6. Consider prayer journaling
Prayer journaling (especially with a cup of coffee!) can give focus to your prayer time and help you go deeper with your reflections. You can certainly do this with any blank journal, but if you decide prayer journaling is your jam and you want something structured, there are several guided journal options for the advent season this year. For the ladies, take a look at Blessed is She’s downloadable 2017 Advent journal or Elizabeth Foss’s Rooted in Hope Journal. There is also this gender-neutral Lectio Divina Advent downloadable journal– which has the added bonus of being free!
7. Don’t go through the season alone
Sharing your commitments and goals with your friends and family can be a big encouragement to each other to keep you going throughout the season, and may even help you take these newly formed habits on into the new year!