I’m going to do it this year. I’m going to find one evening during Advent to sit on the couch with my husband and sip a mug of hot cocoa while watching It’s a Wonderful Life from start to finish.
I say it every year. I’m going to find time to savor the season, deepen my prayer life, nurture my family’s faith, and prepare our hearts for our Savior’s birth. But, all too often, I find myself in a flurry of shopping, wrapping, baking, letter writing, and decorating. I put off preparing my heart in favor of preparing my house, my pantry, and the consumerism mentality that creeps into the minds of even the best of us.
As I was meditating on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary the other day, I found them to be a fitting guide for how to better prepare for the season of preparation. Consider using the following points as meditations for your own Rosary prayer time, and allow Jesus and His Blessed Mother to lead you into a more meaningful, peaceful Advent.
First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation
“May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Now is the time to sit in prayer and ask our Lord and His Mother to show us how we should spend our Advent season. How can we say “yes” to God during this time of anticipation? Is there a particular virtue or aspect of our spiritual lives that our family, as a whole, needs to work on? How can we simplify the season and make more space for Christ in our hearts?
Second Joyful Mystery: The Visitation
“And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43
While I love to reconnect with friends and family over the holidays, I usually find my Christmas card list quite daunting. How can we simplify getting in touch with others, while, at the same time, making our contacts more meaningful? A shorter, more concise Christmas letter? Send a simple, handwritten card to fewer people? Forgo the letter writing altogether in favor of getting together in person with some loved ones we haven’t spoken with in a while?
Third Joyful Mystery: The Birth of Christ
“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7
I love sitting in a darkened room with only the twinkling lights of a pine-scented Christmas tree. But, this year, I want to take an honest look at my Christmas home decor. Do I decorate too much and too early? Where is the focal point of my decor? Mary and Joseph were simply looking for a space on that first Christmas — a space for Jesus. Our family plans to use these weeks before Advent to declutter our existing stuff first, so we will have space to gradually add some meaningful decor during the season of Advent. Some of our favorites: a Jesse tree, a creche (with an empty crib until Christmas Day), and a real, live Christmas tree that we cut as a family just before Christmas.
Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Presentation
“They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” Luke 2:22
What gifts does my family bring to Christmas Day? Do we always end up buying too much for our kids? Does the focus become more, more, more of the perfect presents? How can we simplify and limit our gift-giving this year? Can we give fewer, more meaningful gifts? Can we use some of our family gift-giving money to give to a needy family in our community instead? How can we give more of ourselves in the spirit of the infant that personifies Love?
Fifth Joyful Mystery: Finding Jesus in the Temple
“Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Luke 3:48
I love gathering with my family in one place, all of my children happy and accounted for! And nothing seems to accomplish this more effectively than a delicious, home-cooked meal, or a freshly-baked plate of Christmas cookies. All too often, though, meal preparation ends in frustration with cries of hunger, tears of impatience, and someone covered from head to toe in flour! This is the scenario that plays out when I don’t allow time for the little hands that want to help.
How can I make the extra holiday baking and cooking less stressful this year? Can I sit down now and create a holiday menu plan and stock my pantry with the required non-perishables? What can I make now and freeze for later? Can I focus on the virtue of patience, and allow my children to help in the kitchen? Can I accept less than perfect cookies in favor of finding a more loving relationship with my family members?
Most importantly, I hope to make intentional, prayerful decisions as I choose how my family and I spend our time and resources this Advent. I pray that Jesus finds the space He is looking for in our hearts and home.