Fall is my favorite season. I love the crisp air, the vibrantly colored trees, the cozy sweaters, and the Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches. As I recently gazed out my apartment window to a rainbow of oranges and yellows and reds, I found myself wishing that the season never had to end and that the beauty could stay there forever.
I have felt this way before. During my last year of college, I felt like I had finally found my way — I loved my friends, my apartment, the classes I was taking, the city I lived in and the extracurriculars I was involved with. It took four years for me to get there, and just like the fleeting colors of fall, when I finally found it, I knew I was about to have to say goodbye to it.
Now, the piles of leaves on the sidewalk are increasing. The sky is turning dark earlier and earlier, and we even had our first snow. I can feel winter around the corner, and I am bracing myself for what comes next.
But with winter comes Advent, and the fact that the Church embraces seasons in the liturgical calendar means there must be wisdom in them — even though some of the changes are painful. Even Scripture praises the ebb and flow of life: “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
Christ’s own life was filled with different seasons — His childhood where He built bonds of family; His ministry where preached and healed; His agony and death on the cross; and finally, His resurrection.
As Christians, we don’t get to pick and choose between the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. They are all realities that shape us, which is why we have Advent as a season of preparation, Lent as a season of sacrifice, and Easter as a season of joy. Likewise, each season of our life can bring us closer to Christ in its own way.
Last year, events in my own life lined up perfectly with Lent as a season of sacrifice. My grandma had rapidly declined in her health, and I was sacrificing my time to visit her as she suffered the pains of cancer. Though I could not experience her pain or take it away from her, I could intentionally choose to be with her in those difficult hours, just as I was intentionally choosing to give up something for Lent as a small way of making room in myself for some part of Christ’s passion.
That difficult season of my own life helped me enter more deeply into the liturgical celebration of Lent, and ultimately into the hope that came with the season of Easter, which began just a few days before my grandma died. But I can’t always expect for the seasons of my life to match up perfectly with the seasons of the liturgical calendar, so sometimes it requires being very intentional about how I choose to enter into them.
As we begin the season of Advent in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate the ways Christ comes to us, we can find small ways to model our own lives around the theme of preparation, doing little things to serve as concrete reminders of the reality of the season. Here are a few ideas for how we can fully enter into this Advent season:
- Prepare for the day
- Be intentional with gifts and cards
- Amp up your prayer life
- Start a new tradition
This is as simple as making the bed, but I am really bad at this. There are so many other things that I feel are more worthy of my time and attention, and yet on the rare occasions that I do make my bed, I always feel more prepared for the day. Committing to this routine, which I always do before I welcome guests into my home, is a quick daily reminder of the spiritual preparation that I should be doing to welcome Christ into my life.
It is so easy to get stressed out by the long to-do list associated with preparing for Christmas. Many people in my life are very good gift-buyers, so I often feel self-conscious about my own ability to reciprocate, and I fail to see gift buying and card sending as an opportunity to intentionally love others. This year, I am going to try to carve out extra time for these preparations, offering it up to God in thanksgiving for the gifts of all of my family and friends.
Maybe this means reading a spiritual book, re-reading the Christmas story in the Gospels, journaling, attending Mass, or establishing a daily prayer routine for the first time. When we spend the season of Advent inviting Jesus into our lives through prayer, we are better able to see where He is working in our lives, which is why we celebrate His coming into the world at Christmas.
Having Advent traditions helps build feelings of anticipation and preparation, because once we have done them for a few years, we look forward to them and the season feels incomplete without them. A priest I know once wrote about how his parents asked him and his siblings to do kind things for each other throughout the season of Advent, and every time they did, they got to put a piece of straw in the manger scene in their home to prepare Jesus’s bed for Him. Establishing little things like that while we are young will make them all the more meaningful as we mature.
I believe embracing each season makes life more vibrant and exciting, whether that means spending extra time under a blanket reading in the winter, staying out late to stargaze on warm winter nights, or enjoying a juicy bite of a Honeycrisp apple in the fall. So it only makes sense that as we celebrate the liturgical calendar of our Church, we should find ways to make sure that life in this season is new and different from the last.