The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

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This Sunday: 5 Strategies to Keep Advent in Advent

“It is impossible to celebrate the Lord’s birth except in an atmosphere of sobriety and joyous simplicity and of concern for the poor,” says the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety.

Oops.

The problem is, making Advent simple and quiet might be the true impossibility in our culture — because your calm reflective mood keeps getting interrupted by Christmas carols on the radio, Christmas parties at work and at school, and Christmas specials on TV.

Here are four possible low-key practices that can help. (Find a reflection on this Sunday’s readings here.)

1: Pray for Your Gift List

Many children have probably prayed that they would receive a certain gift at Christmas. That’s not what I mean. I mean praying for the people who you intend to offer Christmas gifts to — and for those who intend to give you gifts. That way it isn’t just a material exchange. What to pray? Easy …

2: The Advent Rosary

Make it a point to spend 15 minutes a night saying the family Rosary during Advent. Turn off the lights in the living room, light the wreath if you have one, or your tree, and go through the Rosary quietly and prayerfully. The Vatican recommends focusing Advent on Mary, so this works well — and feast days like the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12) help, too.

3: Pray the Christmas Novena

There is a nothing like a Catholic novena — nine days of anticipatory prayer before an event — to transform a waiting period into a prayer. The Novena starts Dec. 17, and a good version of it is available here at EWTN’s website. It can add great reflections on Jesus’ life to those days of anticipation as Christmas draws near.

4: Create two playlists

Many of us would have a hard time avoiding all Christmas music before Christmas. One thing you can do is create two Christmas playlists. Your Christmas playlist has real Christmas Carols. The Advent playlist has songs about Christmas in the future tense — including the obvious religious ones like “O Come Emmanuel” but also even the secular “Christmas isn’t here yet” songs could be added, such as “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” “White Christmas,” “Christmas Dreaming,” and even “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (meaning Jesus, of course). Also, any version of: “Jingle Bells,” “Let it Snow” and other nonreligious songs about winter.

Some of our favorite Advent Playlist pop songs include:

  • “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” Harry Connick Jr.
  • “Ave Maria,” Michael Buble
  • “Come O Come Emmanuel,” Pentatonix
  • “Gabriel’s Message”, Sting
  • “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, Red Mountain Church
  • “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” Colin Raye
  • “Miracle of the Rosary,” Elvis Presley
  • “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” Godspell
  • “What If God Was One Of Us?,” Glee
  • “In Like a Lion (Always Winter),” Relient K inspired by Narnia’s perpetual winter before Aslan came
  • “I Hate Christmas Parties,” Relient K

5: Visit the Blessed Sacrament on the way to shop

Are you rushing to get Christmas errands done? Spare an extra five minutes to make a quick visit to the church and say Hi to the cause of all the festivities and gift giving. Kneel in front of the tabernacle and say, “Jesus, thank you for waiting here for us all day every day. We love you so much. Help make this Christmas all about you,” and lift your heart to God. You will be glad you did. And so will he.

While you’re there think of ways you can pray, serve and fast for Advent. (Here are Family Activities  to help do all that).

Image: Flickr, Samuraijohnny

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Fatima Family Handbook and What Pope Francis Really Said, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and has nine children.