Perhaps you have already received the Advent letter from your parish in our One in Christ ACC. There, we invite all to participate in an Advent of Listening this year. As noted in the letter, Advent is intended to create a space within ourselves for joy: the joy of welcoming the Savior of the world, the Word made flesh in the glorious humility of a Child. It is a time of waiting, expectation, hope, trust. To hear and recognize that Word of salvation, come in Person, we need to quiet ourselves to listen – to listen to our loved ones, to our neighbors, to our own hearts, and to God.
Many of the songs of the season encourage us to listen. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” “Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices.” And of course, all of this was made visible in Bethlehem, on a “Silent Night.”
How will you use these weeks to prepare for the Birth of the Savior? It is such a busy and often frantic time; but Advent invites us to the freedom to slow down, to keep watch, to wait in silence and stillness. As we share in an Advent of Listening, consider this list of suggestions for a more spiritual Advent. No one can do all of them, of course; but again this year I ask you to consider this list and explore ways to continue or establish new and holy traditions in your home.
-- Declare a “Peace and Quiet Zone” in your home – TV, radio, cell phones, and other electronics are turned off and all spend 5 or 10 minutes in silent prayer and reflection. Use this time to appreciate the stillness and silence, to meditate prayerfully on the meaning of Advent and the promise of a Redeemer.
-- Discuss a family gift to a charitable organization. One way to give a very meaningful and truly useful gift is to agree to use the money one would spend on a gift as a donation to help the needy in our world.
-- Spend a few minutes around the dinner table talking about how you have experienced an act of mercy received or performed.
-- As you write each card or wrap each gift, offer a prayer for each person who will receive it.
-- Visit a friend or relative who is lonely for some companionship.
-- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas, and seek to be reconciled with others as well with a sincere apology.
-- Invite a friend to Mass with you.
-- Consider setting up the Christmas manger scene gradually – that is, as each member of the family fulfills an Advent promise of service, he/she may add a figure to the scene.
-- Try to have the preparations of shopping, baking, cards, and so on finished a week before Christmas, so that the final days of Advent can be spent in calm and peace.
-- Go caroling with a group of families and other friends.
-- Have each member of the household set aside one gift they have received to give away in turn to the less fortunate. This is a way for the “giving” of Christmas to extend beyond the day itself.
-- Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary together.
-- Spend some quiet time in prayer alone at the manger scene, either in church or at home. Thank Jesus for coming to us as our Savior.
Boxes of Joy
Thanks to all of you who have responded so generously to the Cross Catholic International “Boxes of Joy” project. These boxes of small gifts and life’s necessities go to thousands of children across the world. While the material things are appreciated, perhaps the greater gift is the assurance that they are cared for, prayed for, and not forgotten. That is a commitment we can make every day.