preparing to prepare

Advent dawns on Sunday. A holy season of holy waiting. Four weeks of small lights in the cold darkness. Foretaste of the hope that lies ahead.

As I do every December, I’m wondering how to celebrate this year. Will I start out with good intentions, only to find them buried beneath a flurry of holiday parties and wrapping paper? Will we light the first week’s candle on the Advent wreath with deep prayer and solemnity, only to scurry just to find the matches by week four?

One Lenten practice I have loved since I was a child in Catholic grade school is the Jesse Tree. But it may be a year or two before S is as interested as I am in retracing the stories of the Old Testament that lead up to the birth of Christ. He will, however, love gnawing on the ornaments of Jacob’s ladder and Noah’s rainbow.

As another part of our Advent observance as a family, F and I are hoping to revive one of the (few) prayer practices that we’ve found to work for us as a couple: simply lighting a candle in a dark room at the end of the day and praying, or sharing about our day, or sitting quietly together. Time and space just feel different with a Christ light in our midst.

But even these practices don’t feel like Enough for Advent this year. I need to carve out more deliberate time in my day to soak in this favorite liturgical season. So quickly it is swept under the welcome mat of Christmas parties and New Year’s toasts. I want to linger with Advent a while.

My nagging sense (often a spirit sign) tells me that early morning before S rises – in the cold dark blue of December dawns – is the one moment of the day that holds more promise for prayer. So I may have to dig up discipline for dragging my body out of a warm bed to greet the lightening day. I find it a great challenge to give up even a few minutes of precious sleep, and yet I never regret it when I do motivate up for morning prayer. Wish me luck (and perseverance), gentle reader.

So a little more prayer. And a little more poetry, as well. A few years ago, I had the pure joy of making an Advent retreat led by a poet. We read poetry, wrote poetry, shared poetry. I had never thought of poetry as a prayer practice, but that daylong retreat was so soaked with spirit and communion that I return each year to its collection of poems to drink anew. To send your own poetic spirit dancing this Advent, dear reader, I’ll share a poem a week with you. I hope you’ll enjoy.

How are you preparing for Advent this year?

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