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Advent wreathI received my “Little Blue Book1” in the mail yesterday. This is the book our parish office provides to the Church community to help us prepare for Advent and the Christmas Season. It consists of 43 days of readings, reflections and prayers beginning with the first day of Advent (30 November) and ending with the last day of the Christmas Season, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, (11 January).

When I found it in my mailbox I had to pause and remember what it was. Then, I recalled last year’s edition and how I came to thoroughly enjoy reading it each day. You see, last Advent/Christmas season was my first as a Catholic. I recall I was about half way through the 25 days of Advent before I began to comprehend that it was not just an event or a time-period in name only, but that there was indeed substance to it, a purpose.

The other thing I remember about last year was how difficult it was to take time to contemplate and reflect on that meaning and purpose. Last year found us not only caught up in the usual frantic activity of gift buying for family, but also preparing to drive from Ohio to Louisiana to spend Christmas with our daughter and, ultimately, her wedding three days after Christmas. Although I didn’t salvage much of Advent, we did enjoy a peaceful Christmas with her, and her wedding was one of those beautiful life events I will never forget.

So, when I received the book yesterday I was a little excited. I read the first two days of reflections and then had to put it down to do something else. I picked it up again today and read a couple more day’s worth before I put it down again because it felt like reading ahead was cheating – kind of like reading the last page or two of a novel to see how it ends instead of starting with the first page of chapter one.

A page from The Little Blue Book

A page from The Little Blue Book

But, that was just enough to pique my interest. As it sat there on the kitchen table this evening I glanced at it each time I walked by, my thoughts ruminating. At some point I asked myself, “Okay, since I missed half of Advent last year, what am I going to do differently this year so that I may be spiritually prepared for the celebration of the coming of Christ at His birth?” With that question, I sat down to brain storm and jot some notes.

First, I am happy I decided to go to Reconciliation this last Saturday. Afterwards, I felt totally forgiven and renewed. This seems like a necessary way to get started on the right track to experience this special event.

I will read from the Little Blue Book every day and spend, as it suggests, at least six minutes of quiet time with the Lord.

I will read the daily Scriptures and, in reflecting upon His Word, I will be more contemplative about His message.

I will open myself up to Him, being intentionally watchful for the way He presents Himself to me.

I will soak up the peace that He humbly brings to me and use it to displace the anxiety that is so common with today’s materialism.

I will pray more than I usually do each day, taking time to experience and give thanks for His love.

I will demonstrate my love for Him by being kinder and more charitable to those in need this season.

I will especially try to remember to call on Him to strengthen me in times of temptation, and to receive His light if my heart begins to darken.

And, I probably ought to sacrifice by fasting in some way. I certainly don’t think it will hurt me any!

As I write this, I seem to recall there being a second purpose behind Advent, that it’s not just a time to prepare for the coming of Christ and the celebration of His nativity, but also a time to prepare ourselves for His final coming. And, as I look at my list, I hope my plans will suffice for this purpose, too.

Having made these commitments, I feel positive I will be successful in keeping them. Although we are traveling again this Christmas – to Seattle to visit our new granddaughter, and to Kansas City for the birth of our second grandchild over New Year’s – the cost of holiday airfare for three people will just about eliminate anything but minimal gifts and, thus, the need to get anxious about shopping for just the right stuff. Hallelujah!

This Advent, I hope to honor my commitment to give thanks for His gifts by particularly enjoying the special time I will have with my family and preparing myself as a gift to Him at the celebration of His birth.

How will you prepare this Advent for the coming of our Lord?

“Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your love in the form of Your Son, Jesus Christ, whom You sent to lead us to You. Help us, O Lord, to prepare our hearts for His coming. We pray that He finds us eagerly awaiting Him in joyful prayer. Amen.”

1 Little Blue Book, ®2014 Diocese of Saginaw, Inc.

©2014 Reflections of a Lay Catholic. Reposting and sharing of material in its full and original content is permitted, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author(s) and Reflections of a Lay Catholic.