How to Strengthen Your Spiritual Muscles This Advent

Rebecca Vodola

Rebecca is a runner, hiker, and writer who enjoys studying the integration of faith and fitness and putting it into practice.

December 9, 2020

The holidays will be quiet and peaceful this year…right? 

If you’re anything like me, you might find yourself battling for a moment of peace and quiet throughout the entire month of December. Amidst buying or making gifts, decorating, baking, sending Christmas cards, and preparing for Christmas in a hundred other ways, it is so easy to get caught up in menial tasks and neglect your spiritual–and physical–wellness! 

Unfortunately, we often don’t notice until after Christmas just how wound up we’ve become. The New Year becomes a time for a “reset” when we all promise to get our lives in order. When that time comes, we’ll eat healthy, pray all the time, be present to those around us, and generally be perfect–right? But waiting for the New Year is all too late. In fact, the season of Advent is a time to be more aware of ways we can draw closer to the Lord and prepare for His coming at Christmas. (It’s also the liturgical “New Year,” the perfect time to reevaluate and reset!)

When Jesus says ‘watch’, he doesn’t mean Elf

In the Gospel for the first Sunday of Advent, we heard a warning from Jesus to be vigilant. He implores us to watch, watch, watch, throughout the Gospel: “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming…” (Mk 13:35). But how do we “watch” when there are so many things to be done, and distractions that crowd out the silence we crave during this season?

Perhaps the key is to start small. When I was a kid, our family had a tradition of preparing the nativity set for the coming of the baby Jesus at Christmas. To prepare the manger, we would do good deeds throughout Advent to earn pieces of straw to place in the manger. The idea was that, by Christmas, there would be a thick bed of straw for the baby Jesus to lay upon. 

Instead of thinking of all the big or little tasks you need to do to prepare for Christmas, try thinking of some ways you can add little pieces of straw to the manger of your heart. In the end, the presents will get wrapped and the baking will get done. But will your heart be ready to receive Jesus?

Preparing your heart 

Here are some ideas to prepare your heart, while you also prepare your home for Christmas:

  • Spend intentional time with your spouse or children, undistracted by any tasks you may need to complete. 
  • Do the dishes when you don’t feel like it.
  • Choose a healthy snack over Christmas goodies.
  • Call a friend or family member who might be lonely this Advent season.
  • Skip your morning coffee for the rest of Advent and donate the money you would have spent to a homeless shelter.

Ultimately, preparing for Jesus doesn’t come in one big gesture. It comes in strengthening our muscles of sacrifice each day–sacrificing our time for prayer, and sacrificing our comfort for service. The more we give of ourselves, and the more we sit in silence with the Lord, the better prepared we are to be ready whenever He comes.

What is one small way you can give of yourself today?

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