A View from the Pew: 5 Ways to Prepare for the Season of Preparation

A household project this weekend prompted the inevitable trip to the hardware store where I was greeted with an overwhelming array of Christmas decorations and supplies. It’s still November.

If retailers have figured out that people need time to prepare for the holiday—regardless of their motive—can’t we as believers in Jesus make a little time to prepare for our season of preparation before the celebration of Christmas?

In a few short weeks, Advent will begin, and if we’re not careful, we won’t adequately plan for it. It’s been my experience that when I take a little time on the front end to plan, the season is more meaningful for me and my family.

With that in mind, here are five ways you can prepare to have a thoughtful and spiritually enriching Advent:

  1. Purchase an Advent calendar. A lot of churches supply Advent calendars for their children, but if yours is not one of them, now is the time to pick one out. In order to spark enthusiasm for the upcoming holiday and create important moments for dialogue in your home, pick one that is meaningful for you and your family. Even the more secular versions with windows filled with chocolate or characters from popular culture can give the opportunity to drive home the priority of your faith.
  2. Make an Advent wreath for your home. I begin each Advent with the best of intentions to have a wreath at home, but my track record on observing the lighting of the candles usually dwindles before we reach the pink (third) candle. It doesn’t have to be fancy or sophisticated. And when you light the candles, you don’t have to recite a verbose litany. Having an Advent wreath in your home is a great way to reinforce what you are doing in worship at church, and again, creates space for dialogue. Whether you make one from the trimmings of your Christmas tree or buy one, plan now. There are plenty of good resources online on how to make one, what color candles to buy, and what the various elements mean.
  3. Pick a devotional guide. Most years our church commissions a daily devotional guide from the membership, so this can be an easy one to fulfill. I enjoy writing for them as well as reading what my fellow congregants have written as I spiritually prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. But if you can’t get your hands on one at church, now is the time to research and find one. It’s helpful to be able to start on the first Sunday of Advent. An online resource I’ve used in the past is the special Advent version of Passport Camps’ daily online devotional called “Following the Star.” It’s available at www.d365.org.
  4. Schedule down time. Without a plan you will reach Christmas day exhausted, frustrated, and sincerely questioning what it all means. By looking at your calendar now, you can be sure to schedule time to keep open for family time, rest, or reflection. If you do not plan for it on the front end there is no way it will happen in this busy season. If nothing else, think of it as a gift for yourself.
  5. Decide on a gift for God. Speaking of gifts, during this season we spend time and effort thinking of and purchasing gifts for family, friends, and even coworkers. To make Advent more meaningful and truly connect with the spirit of giving, determine what you will give God this Advent. It could be monetary. Many churches receive mission offerings or participate in other charitable drives during Advent. It could be time. Making yourself available to keep the nursery on Christmas Eve or caroling at the local nursing home could really have an impact on someone. Including God on your gift list will make a profound difference in your life.

Do you have other suggestions? Leave a comment and let us benefit from your ideas.

Lance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA. He earns a living in higher education communications.

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