We continue trying to keep things simple this Advent with suggestions for simple practices this season.
Linger with the Nativity Story
This seems simple enough, but why not be quite intentional about taking in, once more, the story of Jesus’ birth?
- Read it in Scripture.
- Read a children’s book version of the story.
- Watch a film about it, such as The Nativity Story or Jesus of Nazareth (first part).
- Read about it in poetry form.
- Meditate on images of various scenes from the story, whether classic artworks, traditional icons, stained-glass images, or any number of artistic renderings.
- See it in drama or dance or another dramatic representation.
If you’re willing to spend even more time and energy on this, write your own imaginative exploration of this story, putting yourself in the scenes and interacting with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and so on.
A Date with Hope
Most of us go for a coffee or tea break with friends from time to time. Why not add one simple aspect to such a date? Sometime during Advent, take half an hour for that coffee or tea break with a couple of friends or coworkers. As you’re sipping and relaxing, ask one another these questions:
- What gives you reason to hope?
- What are you looking forward to?
Advent is, after all, about hope and promise and looking forward to what is about to come to us. We so naturally fall into conversations about what’s going wrong in the world and about what worries or angers us. For just one coffee date, shift the conversation.
Please note: This conversation can have religious overtones, but that’s not necessary. Even if you speak of hope in more general terms, it will still be a good Advent-like discussion.
Increase Your Generosity
You might already be giving regularly to a local food pantry or food ministry. Simply step up the giving during Advent. Instead of donating one grocery bag of items, make that two. Double your financial assistance to the charity to which you already contribute.
As you go through closets to donate clothing to the thrift store for the winter months ahead, go through your blankets and quilts as well, and donate one or two. (Do check the thrift store’s policies; some do not accept bedding.)
Also, if you’re able, go to an outlet store and buy up as many pairs of children’s socks and gloves as you’re able, and donate those to the thrift store. These items are greatly needed (at least, in areas that have cold weather during the winter), but they are not donated as regularly as some other items, because most of us use socks and gloves until they are too worn to pass along. It will be a treat for a child to be able to buy inexpensive gloves that are brand new.
Please add any of your own suggestions about generosity. We all realize, of course, that “abundance” varies from person to person. God asks that we give as we are able; the generosity is grace, regardless of the size of your contribution.
These awesome imaginative contemplation recordings may assist with the first suggested practice to “Linger with the Nativity Story”
I give time to a daycare for the children of women/families at risk of homelessness. I am a retired early childhood educator. I am extra hands, experienced and I can see the calm when I am there. It takes a village to raise a child. As one child said to me, “Happy Advent”.
Giving during the season of Advent can also be done by giving of your time. Our family likes to spend a few hours here and there ringing bells for Salvation Army. It’s heartwarming to experience the generosity of others as they are out and about shopping. The kettles do not usually get put out unless a volunteer is there, so no money is brought in when no one signs up. One patron told me that when she was recently visiting one of the flooded areas of the country she noticed that Salvation Army stayed long after the cameras and reporters had left. The Salvation Army does incredible work, and giving of my time in this way helps them to bring in more funds to do their work!
During advent I like to acknowledge all those who have given to me in small ways over the past year. I like to buy small gifts for people who have made my year easier, more enjoyable, healthier or somehow supported me.
I give to my cleaner without whom I would not survive.
I give to my barista who is ready and waiting with my coffee when I arrive at work in the morning. I give to the young trainer who helps me work out twice a week to keep me moving motivated to stay fit and well.
I also give to the women at work who book in my clients and help with my computer failures and generally happily help with anything that needs attending to with such grace and generosity.
These people are all humbly giving service and I am one of the lucky recipients. What is also so heart warming is that they are so incredibly grateful for the gratitude shown to them.
They deserve to be thanked and recognised.
While out shopping, I found an adorable little statue of Joseph, with Mary on a donkey cuddling the baby Jesus. During a season when so many are homeless, this statue reminds me of the journey to Egypt, and that the holy family also experienced homelessness.
Your suggestion to linger with the Nativity Story triggered a memory. As a very young child, barely able to read, I took the Nativity Story and drew it and then captioned each drawing as one would find in a comic book. I’m sure it was no masterpiece but I did have the great desire to linger and experience the Nativity of our Lord in this tangible way. Thanks for this reflection and reminder Vinita.
I love the idea of increasing my giving during advent, although gloves would not be appreciated here in the Southern Hemisphere! Some of our prayer group took food parcels to men sitting on the side of the road, hoping for casual work. The looks on their faces were enough reward!