I make three simple suggestions that I think will help you have a better experience of Advent, in preparation for the celebration of Christmas.
First, I suggest that we find some time each day to be quiet and pray. Typically, we tend to be noisy and busy at work, at school or with various sports and activities throughout the course of the day. We run around doing things continually—perhaps multi-tasking. Can’t we find just 10 minutes to turn off the TV, computer, iPod, radio or other electronic devices? Can’t we find a secluded spot where we can just sit, think, meditate and pray for a few minutes? I am amazed that when I take a few moments to be quiet, to settle down and to allow God’s peace to fill the emptiness in my heart, I often become more refreshed and energized. I am frequently more focused as I become aware of the presence of God at work in my life.
Second, I suggest making an integral, sacramental confession. Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. listed some of the spiritual and psychological benefits of confession as articulated by some of our recent popes: self knowledge is increased, bad habits are corrected, conscience is purified, the will is strengthened, salutary self-control is attained, we become more sinless, we become more conformed to Jesus Christ, and we become more submissive to the Holy Spirit. In addition, he points out a psychological value of confession: “. . . The frequent reception of the sacrament of Penance contributes to the well-being of our mind. In one declarative sentence, it is a divinely instituted means of giving us peace of soul.” Many people, I think, could benefit immensely from going to confession frequently. Even the best of secular therapists cannot forgive in the name of Christ nor impart grace (God’s life) which we find present regularly in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.
Finally, I suggest that we do something for someone without expecting any return whatsoever. Christmas is seen by many as a season of giving. We exchange presents. We buy things for family, friends and co-workers who will often do the same for us. Why not do something for someone anonymously? Why not help someone whom we know is unable to reciprocate? Is it really necessary to expect something in return? Do we really have to be seen or noticed when we do something good? I remind everyone that God sees what we do.
Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Mt. 6: 1-4)