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Stay Awake, Be ready
There is a popular kids’ Advent song written by Christopher Walker called “Stay Awake.” Although found in many church missals, including the Breaking Bread editions, it is NOT your typical hymn.
“Stay Awake” calls to mind the joy and excitement that children share as they wait for the birth of our Savior. Walker even has rhythmic clapping built in (hint to music teachers!) to enhance the effect and make his point. And although I tend to prefer ballad-type hymns during Advent, there is something about this little song that speaks volumes.
These two words alone are interesting food for thought when we apply them to Advent. Many of us have dreams of the perfect Advent: a sublime mixture of prayer and spiritual activities, family get-togethers, snowmen, crafting, Christmas cookies, etc. Sublime plan, indeed. Reality? Not so much.
I don’t know about you, but my Advent preparations tend to be exhausting! Our family greatly enjoys the many traditions we have developed over the years, but trying to fit them in with the everyday chaos of life is a challenge. Sometimes, I secretly wish I could just drop one or two and replace it with rest. But just the mere mention of this throws my family into a great stage of lamentation (not necessarily the wailing and grinding of teeth kind, but close). How can we get the best of both worlds? And, more importantly, how can we make certain that we stay awake and focus on making this Advent one that God intends for us?
First and foremost, prayer HAS to be the number one priority. Begin the day asking God to help you ‘stay awake’ and center on His coming. Establish a time during the day that your family can stop and realign its Advent focus. Our family loves to read special prayers at dinner while we light the candles on the Advent Wreath and sing a verse (or 2 or 3 if the younger ones pick it!) of a favorite Advent song. There are many pre-composed prayers that can be found online or you can take advantage of the many beautifully written Catholic family Advent books that are out there. Each year we try new ones, and the kids love taking turns reading or responding. Then, as your day ends, take time to thank God for the immeasurable gift of His Son and ask Him to supply the grace needed to be adequately ready for His great coming!
Second, prioritize your activities and accept the limitations of family life. There are enough Advent and Christmas opportunities to fill every Advent waking minute, but that doesn’t mean that God is calling us to experience each and every one. As long as our prayer focus is on the birth of the Savior and we are viewing the holiday season through the lens of our faith, we have already satisfied the most important part of our preparations for Christmas. This alone should give us peace and comfort as we take on the cooking, shopping, crafting, wrapping, Christmas tree hunting, decorating….and, well, everything else!
Even with the knowledge that we have put Christ first, the strain of expectations can bring us to our knees. For many, the getting “ready” part of this season of peace turns out to be the most stressful 4-5 weeks of the year. Here’s a possible solution that takes little time to accomplish and might actually lighten the load.
Quick Advent/christmas prep. list
The beauty here is that if you can successfully implant some items following the line, you can consider these as bonuses and know that you are achieving a better sense of balance. More importantly, utilizing this list gives you a good indication that your family is accepting its limitations and that you are living an Advent that is more balanced and appropriate. Do, however, recognize that these lists are not written in stone and have a good chance of evolving as Advent unfolds. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide!
Advent should be a time of prayer, family togetherness and peace. The demands of today can make this seem more like a dream than reality. However, with appropriate expectations, a dash of organization and a generous helping of grace, we can arrive awake and ready at the foot of the manger to adore the Newborn King.
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May your Lent be truly fruitful and fill you with longing for His Resurrection!
If a song's title includes (family recording), please refer to the blog entry on 3/8/16 for info...
Hi! I'm a Catholic mom who loves to encourage and support others in their journey to live the beauty of our Catholic faith in a modern world. It can be a struggle, no doubt, but God has given us the tools we need! Join my family (both immediate and extended!) and me as we take on this incredible journey of our path to holiness.
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