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The First Sunday of Advent: A Reminder to Love

Preparing our hearts and minds for authentic Christmas is challenging. With how much our culture promotes consumerism, Santa, decorating trees, and relabeling everything “holiday,” it can be hard to get into the Advent, rather than Christmas, spirit. 
 
This coming Sunday’s reading remind us of our need to pay attention, and what our goal ultimately is: attaining heaven for ourselves, our spouse and children, and our fellow man. No amount of tree ornaments, wreaths, or toys can truly invite us to experience the joyful anticipation of our Savior’s birth and increase our faith. 
 

The First Sunday of AdventThis isn’t to say wreaths, ornaments, and toys shouldn’t be a part of our preparations and celebration. Of course they can! They can lift your mood and remind you of the season. But to truly use Advent as an opportunity to grow spiritually, we have to look outside the culture.

One way to do this is to read the Sunday readings. It is wise to do so every week, but especially in Advent, it’s nice to read, reflect, and pray about the readings we are to hear the upcoming Sunday, and think of ways to apply it to our lives.

 
This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent. On the heels of Thanksgiving, this year it sneaks up on us. So, here is fair warning: It’s coming this Sunday! Break out your Advent wreath and read this coming Sunday’s readings here
 
There were two points in the readings that stood out to me, one from the second reading, and the other from the Gospel (excerpts taken from the link above from the USCCB):
1.”Brothers and sisters:
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love
for one another and for all,
just as we have for you, 
so as to strengthen your hearts, 
to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father 
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.”
 
2. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy 
from carousing and drunkenness 
and the anxieties of daily life, 
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.” 

In light of the tragedies going on around the world, especially in Paris, Beirut, Syria, and Mali (among so many other places), so many Americans have experienced the fear and anxieties of their peers over possible ISIS attacks and over the potential for terrorists to slip into the nation amidst the thousands of Syrian refugees. These readings seem to call us to cast aside fear and remind us of our obligation to love our fellow man to such a level as to be completely blameless in holiness. When we stand at judgement, will we have to atone for, or be lifted by, our actions towards those around us, whether friend, stranger, or enemy. This demands us to be mindful of our eternal soul when deciding to respond to those around us.But hitting even closer to home, we are called in the Gospel to avoid becoming “drowsy from…the anxieties of daily life.” Carousing and drunkenness don’t speak to most of us, but I’m betting we all experience anxieties coming between us and our relationship with our Lord, and cause us to focus on today, rather than our life after death. Every day, I feel the depth of how full life is, with housework, raising small children, being on time a little late for appointments, connecting with my spouse at the end of the day, and the list goes on. There have been days I have forgotten to pray. There have been days where I only offered prayers that requested something of God. There have been days where I have forgotten to give thanks and praise for the enormous blessings He has bestowed upon me. But we are called to be aware, not complacent. We are called to use those anxieties to increase our faith and focus on Jesus, not to descend into despair or apathy.

 
Show us, Lord, your love;and grant us your salvation.
And so we move forward with Advent, preparing and praying for coming of our Savior while we prepare for the celebration of His birth. May we take the readings our wise Church has chosen for this Sunday and apply it to our lives. Love our fellow man. Lean away from the temptation to be consumed by anxieties.  Maybe volunteer at a food pantry, donate for a Christmas present drive, shovel snow for your elderly neighbor, or smile and offer help to an immigrant. When life gets very busy, schedule in prayer to ensure you don’t miss it, and make sure to thank our Lord for His abundant blessings. Try to find God in the anxiety. But mostly, be mindful and rejoice!
 
 
 
For some great ideas for how to celebrate Advent, check out this Catholic Sistas post.
 

May your Advent season be blessed!

 

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Advent Christmas Ink Slingers Liturgical Year Michelle Spiritual Growth

Random Acts of Kindness: An Advent Gift

advent candles 1

 

With Advent right around the corner and Christmas to follow afterward, Catholics everywhere are getting ready for the upcoming holidays. Both here and on the Catholic Sistas’ fan page we have challenged you to prepare for Christmas ahead of time, even helping you by providing a countdown and list of “things to do” week by week so that you can enjoy your upcoming Advent season without stressing about the Christmas season.

Hopefully with your Christmas shopping under wraps early, you can begin to plan how you will enjoy and celebrate your Advent season.

Last week Christi gave us a wonderful Quick Take 7 regarding activities we can do with our families to help make our Advent celebrations holy, memorable, and special. It’s important that we actually take the time out of our busy schedules to truly enjoy Advent.

Advent is the beginning of our new liturgical year. In Latin the word Advent means “coming”. We are encouraged to focus our hearts and minds on the upcoming birth of Christ as well as His second coming at the end of times. We should not only prepare our families, but we should also look to prepare ourselves for this beautiful season in the Church year.

One way to prepare our hearts and minds is to begin to think of others instead of ourselves. I would like propose an Advent challenge to each of you. This Advent I pray you will seek to perform random acts of kindness for those you encounter. What better way is there to prepare a place in your heart for Christ than by allowing Christ’s light to shine through all you say and do?

I have compiled a list of some random acts of kindness you might think about incorporating into your day, but I would love to hear your ideas as well!

Each day vow to make at least one person’s day better through a random act of kindness. Perhaps you are able to do more; if so, I challenge you to extend your kindness to as many people as you can. Imagine the joy you can spread by performing simple acts of kindness for others!

You can:

  • Pay for the person behind you in a coffee shop or drive thru
  • Call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while to reconnect with them
  • Offer to babysit for a harried mom or dad (for free!)
  • Leave a small gift for a stranger in a random place
  • Leave a small note of appreciation to someone who could use a pick me up
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line
  • Give a homeless person a food and/or gift card to a restaurant
  • Volunteer at your local homeless shelter
  • Send a card or flowers to someone you know is going through a hard time
  • Tape coins to a vending machine with a note saying “Enjoy a treat on me!”
  • Visit someone who is homebound; make them a meal to share together
  • Leave kind notes on people’s windshields reminding them that they are special
  • Hand write a thank you note to someone who has done something kind for you
  • Donate blood
  • Write a Christmas card to a soldier
  • Send a Christmas box of goodies to a soldier
  • Choose to smile at everyone you encounter and say hello
  • Write a letter to someone who has greatly impacted your life
  • Bring a homemade baked good for your office or class
  • Offer to help an elderly neighbor
  • Leave your mail carrier a surprise treat in your mailbox
  • Call a store or restaurant where you have received good service and brag to the manager about the person who helped you
  • Instead of getting defensive or angry in a situation, remain calm and compassionate instead
  • Donate your used books, clothes, or household items to your local library, shelter, or emergency center
  • Give blankets, coats, and socks to the homeless
  • Offer your prayers for those you know are in need of them
  • Forgive someone who has hurt you even if they have not asked for your forgiveness

What other random acts of kindness could we perform to help others see Christ’s light and love shining through us during this upcoming Advent season? How can we further prepare our hearts and minds to receive the Christ child?

My friends, I pray that your Advent season will be full of joyful anticipation and small acts of loving kindness which will focus your heart and mind on Christ’s coming.