Advent is Here, Christmas is Near!

Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, marks the beginning of the Advent season, which lasts until Christmas Eve!  The first Sunday of Advent is when the liturgical year begins and is a time when we prepare and celebrate in anticipation of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.   
Before coming back to Catholicism, I had always understood that Christmas is when Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.  However, I didn’t know much more.  I viewed Christmas with “secular-colored glasses”: shopping, gifts, baking, Christmas music, cooking, spending time with family, parties, etc...  While all of those are ways in which to celebrate the Christmas season, it was not until I came back to the Church that I understood how remarkable the Advent season is and how much I was missing out on.  
 The Advent season, in some ways, is like a mini-Lent. During the Lenten season, I knew to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays, to go to confession and make sacrifices.  I’ve now learned that those methods: prayer, penance and fasting, are also ways in which we can prepare ourselves during Advent for Christmas.  Advent also gives us joyful times for celebration. Here is how our family 
celebrates Advent:
Advent Wreath
As one can easily find on the website of the Eternal Word Television Network: “The Advent Wreath represents the long time when people lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the world. Each year during Advent, people wait once again in darkness for the coming of the Lord, His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming in every moment of grace.”
After dinner, our family gathers around our Advent Wreath and my husband will light the candle or candles and will read prayers from an Advent book.
Sacrament of Penance
We go to confession at least once a month throughout the year.  Our oldest is always eager to go to confession and I pray that he remains “all systems go” about the Sacrament of Penance for all his life.  During Lent, confession is very important for our Advent preparation.  A great way to prepare is to purify our souls.  When Christmas Day comes, I would like to have ‘wiped my slate clean’ so that I can fully enjoy and celebrate His birth.   Remember, when we confess our sins to a Priest, we are confessing to the Priest in Persona Christi, that is, a priest who sacramentally acts in the person of Christ.
While we keep most of our Christmas decorations stored until we get much closer to Christmas, we love putting up nativity sets in our home. I take out baby Jesus from each set and wrap them in a box. On Christmas Eve, our children unwrap the box and place baby Jesus in each nativity set.  
Advent Calendar
Our Advent Calendar has a little book for each day that contains a short Bible story, prayer, psalm, or Christmas song.  After we are finished with it, our children like hanging the book on a small Christmas tree as ornaments. 
Our family has been blessed by God and I always make it a point to prudently tell our children that not all families and children have such blessings.  Just as the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus, we, too, should give gifts to our neighbors.  “As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:40
Feast Days
There are many joyful feasts to celebrate during the month of December.  Some include Saint Nicholas (December 6), the Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8: a Holy Day of Obligation), Saint Juan Diego (December 9)and Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). 
Saint Andrew Novena
Also known as the Christmas Anticipation Prayer, it is a devotion which begins on the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, November 30 and ends on Christmas Eve.  I print the prayer and place it on our refrigerator as a reminder to pray it as often as possible.  The prayer is beautiful and during the hustle and bustle of the season, it perfectly brings your mind back to Jesus’s birth.
“Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request] through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.”
For our family, Advent is a time to slow down and focus on the real reason for the upcoming Christmas season.  It is also a time for us to learn more about our Catholic faith and the true meaning of following Jesus.  The activities I’ve shared allow my family to prepare our souls, just as our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph prepared, for the coming of our Savior, as there will always be room for Him in our inn. 
Christina Frye is a lifelong Rhode Islander, wife, mother and founder of Catholic Mom Rhode Island,