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Keeping Advent Holy

Keeping Advent Holy

It’s beginning to look a lot like, well, hopefully, Advent. One of the challenges we face as a Catholic family during the holiday season is the temptation to skip right from Thanksgiving turkey to “Joy to the World” without pausing to spiritually prepare ourselves for Christmas. How do we keep this time of prayer, preparation and anticipation at the forefront of our December when the rest of the world is in full celebration mode? We don’t want to cheat our family out of the joy of this season, but we also want to keep Advent holy. Finding that balance can be tricky. Here are a few ideas.

Fill your home with Advent music — or at least play “A Voice Cries Out” as often as you play “Winter Wonderland.” There’s just something different about Advent hymns. They are still joyous, but many create a sense of contained, contemplative joy — a joy that is coming but is not yet here.

When decorating, prioritize your Advent wreath or Jesse tree, or both, before you put up the rest of your Christmas decorations. When your halls are fully decked, make sure your Nativity scene is central and conspicuous.

Tweak mainstream traditions. I am the reluctant handler of an elf named Farkle. Farkle is often found holding a Bible chapter and verse, usually from Luke or Isaiah, for the kids to look up and read that day. He will not move unless the verse is read. The first time, it took the kids a few days to figure this deal out, so Farkle got a much needed rest. But it didn’t take them long to learn to keep their Bibles nearby.

Resist the secularization of Christmas. Don’t let it slide even in casual instances. When there’s a holiday episode of a cartoon where the big revelation at the end is that “Christmas is about spending time with your family” or “The true meaning of Christmas is being kind to others” — if they even use the word Christmas — stop and call that out.

There’s obviously nothing wrong with spending time with family or being kind, but Christmas is so much more than that. Don’t let this watered-down version of Christmas take hold. Without Mary’s fiat, without Jesus’s birth, there is no Christmas. Talk to your children about why so many are reluctant to acknowledge this truth, and why it is important for your family to remember why we celebrate.

Ultimately, the most effective way to keep the spirit of Advent is to go to the place where you will be immersed in it — your church. Go to Mass, not just Sunday Mass, but daily Mass if you can. At least once during the Advent season, bring your sins and troubles to Jesus in the confessional. Google a good examination of conscience, text it to your teenagers with a save the date, then pack up the car and go as a family. This is the most important Christmas prep of all.

Once Advent ends, don’t forget to fully celebrate Christmas! Your neighbors may be taking down their trees on Dec.26, but for us, Dec. 25 is only the first day of Christmas. Play Christmas songs, keep the Christmas pajamas and outfits in rotation and keep the decorations up until Epiphany!

Advent is a time of prayer and recollection, but also a season of grace, love, joy, light and hope. Bring light to your days by reading the Gospel or the prophets. Spread joy to others by making an intentional donation to a toy drive or a food bank. Invite grace by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that you are better prepared to extend grace to others. Bring yourself to the very source of love by spending time in eucharistic adoration. Rest in the hope of the coming of Jesus.

Advent is beautiful — do not let it be erased!

Laura Ramis is a member of Corpus Christi Church. She lives in Lexington with her husband Guillermo and six children. Email her at