Rituals and traditions are beautiful. However, when ritual becomes routine, those traditions aren’t as impactful.
What better time to feel the power of routine over ritual than during Advent? I want desperately to prepare my heart, but it always feels like there’s too much competing for my attention when it comes to what needs to be prepared.
When the food, gifts, travel plans, and festivities all need preparing, our hearts easily take a backseat. This year for me, especially as the first weekend of Advent kicked off with my grandmother’s funeral, was not exactly the type of preparation I had in mind.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how we can add ritual to our routine. Maybe the solution isn’t in choosing one over the other but blending the two.
Do you want to add some holiness to your routine as a single Catholic man or woman during this time of the year? Here are fourteen small things that can make a huge impact as you prepare your heart. One tiny piece of straw wouldn’t have made a difference, but a whole pile of tiny straws made a bed for the Lord for his first night on this side of Heaven!
1. Be a Christian driver
There’s nowhere that I forget we’re all God’s creation faster than in rush hour. Let tonight’s 5:00 drive be an opportunity to practice peace!
2. Hand address your Christmas cards
This small gesture is a labor of love. It will take forever—a really beautiful reminder that relationships take time and intention to build and tend.
3. Say yes to small opportunities
My local grocery store has ready-packed grocery bags you can just add to your cart and they’ll take to donate. Super easy! But super powerful.
4. Check your phones at the door
Make at least one night of Advent a truly silent night. No phones, no screens, no music, no television—just you and your family existing in the same space together.
5. Pray your soda
I know how weird that sounds. But studies actually show habits are easier to create when you pin them to an existing habit. For me, that’s a daily soda. If I say a prayer for one new person every day during my soda, that’s twenty-five days of prayers I wouldn’t have said otherwise.
6. Reach out to someone
Who is a person in your life you don’t talk to but feel like could really use a loving hand this season? Give a call, send a text, or take them out to coffee.
7. Get up earlier or surrender a part of your morning routine
Choose to swap something out in favor of more prayer time at the beginning of the day. Whether that’s starting a new routine or adding more time to your current one, give up sleep or, in my case, dry hair.
8. Say no! Then say no again!
Repeat after me: “My holiday calendar is all full this year, but let’s plan to see one another after the new year.”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with not seeing every single person you went to high school with or buying everyone on your list a gift or skipping a few holiday parties. Use that time for things that fill your cup.
9. Let Jesus ride shotgun
Keep the radio off, and talk out loud to Jesus on your commutes. I had a friend that used to act like Jesus was just sitting in the front seat. He’d even slug-bug the Lord when he saw a Volkswagen Beetle. That part is optional.
10. Donate something you love
This is a challenge, but it’s a really good reminder that we’re not living for this world. And if we don’t rule our possessions, they’ll rule us. As a big sign of detaching from the commercial part of the holidays, give your favorite sweater to a thrift shop for someone else to find discounted joy in it.
11. Invite someone to pray
Invite someone at work or in your social circle to join you for a church event this season. Maybe even someone you think will say no.
Worst case scenario, you’re a little embarrassed. Best case scenario, they have a positive encounter with Christ during Christmas.
12. Spend time with a child
Even if you just volunteer at a parish event with children present, there is so much to gain from being around the wonder and awe of a child at Christmas time.
Try this very easy, high impact type of praying. Saint Augustine said, “To sing is to pray twice.”
So spend time singing holy Advent and Christmas songs, and really, really listen to the words. Check out this incredible example of adding ritual to routine.
14. Put Jesus on your list (literally)
You’ve probably got a list of everyone you need to buy for, and if you’re like me, you have a few people who you’re also birthday shopping for. For Jesus, this is his birthday and Christmas! Ask him what he wants from you. Then, really open your heart to the answer.