25 Days of Meaningful Joy for Advent

0 Comments 01 December 2014

Tis the season of joy, hope, and light! Yet, in the frantic rush of the holidays, one can easily become tired. Calm may not seem near. The chaos of our culture can drown out spiritual practice and growth. We stop truly living in the presence of joy, hope, and light.

Do not become exhausted by all that is outside of yourself. Everything you need is within, ready to be shared with the world. You are never alone, and light can always shine through you.

During this season known as Advent, Christians anticipate the feast of light and life, the Nativity of the Savior. We are called to reflect on glorious mysteries. A time of sparkling hope within the night, we await Christmas with joyous anticipation, fully observing all the days.

The tradition of the Advent calendar, originally marking the days in December until Christmas Eve in chalk and later including candles, can be traced back to Germany in the 19th Century. Even some of the earliest Advent calendars were much like the cardboard rectangles still printed today with doors to open each day, revealing a Bible verse of the Nativity story or a piece of chocolate. Another variation has been decorative handiwork, such as felt stockings with pockets for small ornaments or elaborate wooden pieces with compartments to hold small figures or candy for each day of December.

No matter the form, the meaning of Advent calendars can slip passively into our busy holiday routines, mixed among Elf on the Shelf and letters to Santa. However, these fun modern activities need not be separated from our spiritual ways. We have the opportunity to make a conscious effort to reclaim religious customs as both meaningful and joyous.

Elf on the Shelf

By taking time to participate in acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, families can experience the full joy of Advent and Christmas. This Advent season, consider writing twenty-five meaningful and joyous activities on slips of paper and placing them in an Advent calendar. Keep a complete list in your planner, so you can be prepared for upcoming activities.

Throughout these bustling days, you may find that you choose activities to align with the responsibilities already on your long to-do list. This is okay. Take into account your regular schedule, as well as special holiday events. Plan your Advent activities purposely to balance more involved projects and less-intensive projects. Your intention, the spirit in which you do these activities, matters most.

For young children, activities can be quite simple and practical, yet still allow a moment to reflect on the light of the season. Holiday traditions, such as tree trimming, letters to Santa, and caroling can be included in the calendar as reminders of pure joy.

You may find ways to bring charity into favorite activities, such as baking cookies. Shopping for a Giving Tree or Angel Tree can be rewarding, particularly if a child can shop for a boy or girl that is also his or her own age.

On some days, a family may only have time for a piece of candy and a short devotion. When shared together in the spirit of the season, even the smallest activity can bring meaning and joy. Surely your family’s activities will also bring you and your children lasting memories. With faithfulness and reverence for the sacred, families can grow spiritually during the Advent season.

As adults in our own spiritual journey, we must especially look for the meaning and beauty around us during the Advent season. Take time to reflect within, focusing on one’s thinking and priorities, as well as look beyond oneself to generously share acts of kindness and thoughtfulness.

As inspiration for parents during Advent, I have created the ’25 Days of Meaningful Joy,’ which you might like to follow alongside the daily Advent activities you plan for your children.

May you be truly present in this magical time of joy, hope, and light!

25 Days Meaningful Joy

25 Days of Meaningful Joy

-An Advent Calendar for Adult Spirituality-


1. Give Your Children the Gift of Prayer

At the beginning of Advent and throughout the days until Christmas, pray together as a family. Children can only understand prayer and learn to find their own way of prayer by practicing prayer. Give them a sense that prayer to a loving God is central to your spiritual journey, a sense that they too always have prayer and never walk alone. An Advent Wreath is a common tradition that can help guide prayer at the beginning of each of the four weeks of Advent. This season, include daily prayer with the intention to continue into the New Year.


2. Give the Gift of a Christmas Tree

Help someone set up a Christmas tree who may need some extra help. Or purchase a new tree and trimmings for someone who otherwise would not have any. Even the smallest tree can lift the spirit.


3. Shop for a Giving Tree

Select an angel or two from a local Giving Tree at your church, YMCA, or mall. Children might enjoy selecting a child their same gender and age. Consider taking the extra step and volunteering to help sort or wrap the gifts when they are received.


4. Make Handmade Cards and Ornaments

The special time and care it takes to make a card or ornament brings one into the present. You can spread even more joy by sending the cards or sharing the ornaments with a grandparent, loved one, neighbor, a children’s hospital, or a nursing home.


5. Celebrate in Unity

Honor the different spiritual traditions of a neighbor by acknowledging, contributing to, or sharing in their specific holiday celebration.


6. Let Someone Else Go First

Whether in the store or on the highway, take a moment to let another person go ahead of yourself.


7. Say a Sincere Thank You

Many of us are accustomed to saying “thank you” in the appropriate situations. However, perhaps you will find an instance to say a very sincere word of thanks to a person who may not expect it or to a person who particularly deserves it, such as the school crossing guard.


8. Hold the Door Open

Take a moment to care for the person behind you and hold open the door when entering a store, your child’s school, or the office. Even a small thoughtful deed helps another person.


9. Say a Special Prayer

Sometimes we are unable to help someone who is truly in need, but we can always say a special prayer for that person and their need.


10. Help the Homeless and Hungry

Set aside judgment and find a way to help the homeless. If you can extend yourself to give more than you have in the past, make the effort. For instance, instead of donating canned goods to a food drive, help serve meals at a shelter.


11. Bake a Loving Treat

Many of us include baking cookies and other treats in our holiday traditions. Consider doubling your recipes and giving your loving treats away.


12. Share a Helpful Link

Social media is often a forum for lighter banter, but friends appreciate a unique and useful link. Consider sharing a helpful link for a good cause, such as—

What Food Banks Need Most (And What They Can’t Use)


13. Truly Reconnect with Someone

We can easily text to convey that we are thinking of a loved one. This time, call.


14. Listen Better, Especially to the Elderly

Just listen.


15. Adopt a Forever Friend

Many animal friends need forever homes. Consider whether your family can adopt a pet this holiday, or at least include pet food in your donation list.


16. Share a Moment of Beauty

Live in the present and call attention to the beauty you see in each moment. Little ones often narrate their world with awe and glory—

The leaves are dancing on the ground. The trees are dancing in the wind. It’s a beautiful day!


17. Share a Hopeful Message

We all experience feelings of fear and anxiety. Tell others what they need to hear. Give others messages of hope.


18. Take Time to See

Notice the joy that surrounds you by going as a family to view light displays or watch a living Nativity. Take pause to truly see reflections of love, hope, and peace. Feel the unity.


19. Retreat and Be Still

Treasure quiet time to be still and reflect on inner beliefs and attitudes. In addition to meditation and prayer, read inspirational stories to bring focus to the meaning of the Advent season. The mental stillness required for meditation and prayer can also be facilitated by a short pilgrimage to a shrine or walk through a labyrinth.


20. Have Pure Fun Together

Attend a festival, concert, or ballet. Make a new tradition around getting a Christmas tree or decorating the house. Through pure fun, families form loving bonds and life-long happy memories.


21. Cater to Someone’s Special Need

Consider the little ways you might lift another person and remove a small weight from their shoulders. If a coworker requires a gluten-free diet, bring a gluten-free dish to the office potluck and let them know. Our awareness is far more valuable than our small gesture. Let others know you see them and they are important.


22. Wrap Gifts Together

Allow children to be a part of selecting and wrapping gifts for loved ones. The giving spirit is not about the value of the item, but the love that goes into giving.


23. Hold a Family Sing-Along around the Christmas Tree

Singing together is joyful, as well as a glorious form of prayer. Let go of worries and celebrate with beautiful hymns of praise.


24. Create a Timeless Tradition

Traditions are symbolic of the love we share as family. Craft a special holiday ritual that expresses the unique beauty of your family. Whether a movie night with popcorn, cookies, and cocoa or caroling at a nursing home, traditions etch loving memories into the hearts of your children. Attending Midnight Mass, reading the Christmas story, and placing baby Jesus in the manger may be some of the spiritual traditions that have been passed down and that you may continue. Add your own interpretation, bringing light to the evening, such as reading the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas or sharing a warm tamale dinner.


25. Carry Joy into the New Year

As you celebrate the arrival of Christmas Day, be mindful of the spiritual growth you have experienced. Promise to carry the joy and peace into a New Year.

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