Advent (‘coming’) is a time for preparation as we look towards the feast of Christmas and anticipate the celebration of love entering the world in the form of a vulnerable baby. It teaches us about patience, and about the value of waiting for something good; it reminds us of the need to take a more measured approach rather than just leap from activity to activity. In our busy lives, more thoughtful periods like this can be valuable. Here are 6 things you could try to capture the more reflective spirit of Advent:
1. Instead of reading Christmas cards when they are delivered, put them in a basket and read them in turn at your main meal. This is an opportunity to share with children (or remind ourselves about) the ‘story’ of these people – who they are, where we met them – and in the process celebrates the story of our lives and the importance of friends and community.
2. Re-discover the joy of simplicity by making gifts for family and friends – edible or otherwise – or the creativity of making Christmas decorations – try fir cones sprayed in gold suspended from a ribbon.
3. Take look at http://www.christmasunwrapped.org for a vibrant, easy-to-understand telling of the real story of Christmas.
4. Light an advent candle at a key mealtime. An Advent candle is marked in sections so that you burn a section of wax each day. You could use this moment for saying grace or another simple prayer.
5. Read an Advent book such as Pilgrims to the Manger: Rediscovering the Wonder by Naomi Starkey; or Ready Steady Slow which includes readings and tips for slowing down in Advent. Or my personal favourite this year The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp.
6. Make a lantern from a glass jar and a tea light. You could use glass paints to decorate the jar for this. Place it in the window as a sign of hospitality to visitors, and traditionally, of welcome to the Christ-child.
(Books, candles and advent calendars are available from http://www.eden.co.uk or CLC Bookshop, 88a Regent Street in Cambridge, among other places. Some of the ideas above are from Spirituality to Go: Rituals and Reflections for Everyday Living by Olive Fleming Drane.)