Our Catholic Church has given us the time of Advent to properly prepare for Jesus’ birthday. The birth of Our Savior began with His conception in His mother Mary’s womb. So it would do us well if we were to prepare for Jesus’ coming as the Blessed Mother Mary.
Here is a list of 12 suggestions that we might practice during Advent to prepare for the coming of Jesus’ birthday.
1) Imitate Mary’s preparation: It was with great joy that Mary looked forward to the redemption of God’s people Israel. Before Mary conceive Jesus in her womb, she conceived Him in her heart. So we notice that preparing for Jesus’ birth has to do with the interior soul. The exterior preparation followed the interior. Mary gave Jesus her soul/heart first, and then her body. She made a warm, loving home for Him in her heart and her body. Then she prepared, as best as she could, the animal’s pen and the manger for Him.
2) Go to confession: We want our souls to be clean and open to Jesus’ coming. This is the never ending process of growing in holiness. One might say, I am already in the state of grace, I have been in union with Jesus for many years. But we can always continue to clean the soul/heart of small imperfections. You do not say, the house was cleaned 10 years ago, therefore I do not have to clean it anymore. Dust and contamination continue to somehow seep into our souls by simply being in the world. The best way to make a good confession is to take time to carefully look at all aspects of our soul and confess in sorrow all the imperfections we may be still struggling with. It is a given that we need to confess the large imperfections and sins too.
3) Decorate your soul with the virtues of Love and Humility: I would imagine that the two most important ornaments one could welcome Jesus with, would be the virtues of humility and love. Mary’s soul was filled with humility and love.
4) Contemplative Prayer: If we so chose to live Advent to prepare for Jesus’ birthday, we should attempt to go deeper into contemplative prayer. Slow down and take time to be silent with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
5) Read the Bible: Meditate on the narrative passages in the Bible about the events that surrounded the birth of Jesus (Especially meditate on St. Luke chapter 1). Mary replied to St. Gabriel; “be it done to me according to your word”. Let “the word of God” sink into your soul as Mary did.
6) Put some Catholic Christmas lights up: Jesus is the light of the world. In this dark time of the year, it is always wonderful to see cheerful lights shining on houses. But our lights should, if possible, have some christian meaning, like lit up manger scenes, or stars. Try to remind people that Jesus is the reason for the beautiful Christmas decorations. Explain to them the history of the Christmas season. The star of Bethlehem. Jesus, light of the world. (Prologue of John’s gospel chapter 1). Jesus is the “present” to the world from His Father. The Magi brought presents to Jesus.
7) Do not go shopping till after Christmas: All the corporations make billions of dollars from us Catholics and christians on Christmas gifts, yet will not even have the courtesy to acknowledge Jesus. So we can protest by buying after Christmas when everything is cheaper. Pray instead of rushing around and shopping in crowded materialistic stores.
8) Give the presents on the Epiphany January 6th.: It also used to be called Little Christmas when the three Kings gave the gifts to Jesus. This way we are imitating the Magi and not imitating Santa Claus. We are celebratingJesus’ birthday, not our own. Why should we give others and ourselves presents on His birthday. You would not like it if it were your birthday and everyone else got presents except you who’s birthday it was. Do not buy gifts that you have to charge to your credit card. God does not want us to get in debt. It does not cost a dime to write a letter, cook some cookies, or make a visit.
9) Tell children that Santa Claus is really Saint Nicholas: Tell them the true story of the life of St. Nicholas. All this emphasis on Santa Claus is evil, because it has totally eclipsed Jesus, the savior who died on the Cross for us. Santa never died for us.
10) Observe the Fast and Ember days. The day before the feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8th. there is a fast and abstinence day. The week before Christmas there is Ember Wednesday (no meat), Friday and Saturday (no meat and some fasting). Christmas eve is a day of fast and abstinence too.
11) Keep Christmas day holy: This day is Jesus’ birthday. Let us do everything we possibly can to make it a day pleasing to Him and centered on Him. Start with the Holy Latin Mass at Midnight. Really pray that you will be able to feel Jesus’ presence all Christmas day long. Keep the TV off. Remind people why we have this day off and why we gather to eat.
12) Do something for a poor, sick or lonely person and maybe for an enemy too. We remember Joseph, Mary and Jesus were not welcomed by anyone at His first coming. Maybe in some way we can do something for someone who has no one to spend Christmas with. Christmas is one day of the year when many cold hearts soften a little. This is a good day to reach out to someone who will not speak to you in your family or someone else. At least we can spend some time praying for all the people that have hurt us in this last year and pray that they will change. We also can forgive all those who have hurt us and begin the new year with a clean slate. Jesus is Love and He can not come and dwell within hearts that have hate or hold grudges.