Margaret Marcuson: Four Practices to Carry You Through Advent

Advent is up on us! What practices do you have to get you through to Christmas? I’ve always found that doing at least a few things for myself through these weeks help me walk through them with less stress and more grace.

Here are four practices I recommend:

  1. Use a daily Advent reading resource or calendar. I’ve used the collection Watch for the Light for daily Advent readings more than one year (paper only). Loyola Press has a nice online calendar for adults. And I came across this powerful slideshow and devotional booklet for congregational or individual use, created by Victoria Emily Jones. She includes art from a variety of cultures and times.

  2. Choose a reminder for occasional prayer through the days of Advent. My colleague Larry Peacock talks about finding markers or reminders each day to call us to prayer, such as meals, stopping at a red light, or even bumping into someone in a crowd. What might be a “marker” for you for prayer through Advent? Perhaps it is the first time you see the lighted Christmas tree in your home or church every day. Or when you hear a particular holiday song (even a secular one). Or getting your Starbucks in the red cup. This is different from a set time for daily prayer, and doesn’t require more than a moment of prayerful thought.

  3. Give up complaining. I’ve written before about the value of giving up complaining. I’ve noticed I’ve slipped back into it lately, so I’m renewing my commitment. Recently I found myself complaining to my husband about copyediting errors, a pet peeve of mine. I’m giving that up (again). Join me through these weeks of Advent. Whether it’s politics, the commercialization of Christmas or the frantic pre-Christmas antics of a colleague or church member, don’t complain. I’m recommitting, and I’m committing to prayer for our politicians, stressed-out families, workers and business owners, and church staff members.

  4. Move. There’s a lot of adrenaline generated by the stresses and strains of the holiday season: Extra services, pastoral care needs, preparing for post-Christmas travel, family challenges, financial crunches (church and personal). Do something every day to move around. If the weather is too bad to get outside or you can’t get to the gym, go up and down some stairs a few times every day, or whatever level of mobility your health will permit. (You could even combine #2 and #4 by praying when you go up a flight up stairs!)

What will you commit to do (from this list or your own practice) through Advent?

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