Laying the Foundation for a Healing Advent
Thanksgiving is the perfect preparation for Advent! It solves the problem of a distracted and harried season even before we get to the starting line.
Laying the Foundation for a Healing Advent
Thanksgiving is the perfect preparation for Advent! It solves the problem of a distracted and harried season even before we get to the starting line. If we can use Thanksgiving Day as a starting point for the season--instead of a pit stop for food before we commence with shopping--we can have the most fruitful Advent of our lives!
Advent is rightly known as the season of waiting and preparation for Christmas. But Advent itself is a gift that unfolds in us and in the world. As we inch closer to this season of holy awakening, let us lay the proper foundation, so that we might be ready--body, mind, and soul--for the healing which Christ desires for us.
Here are three ways to prepare that foundation even while we are still enjoying our hayrides and Thanksgiving pies.
Gratitude is the non-negotiable cornerstone for healing!
Many of the anxious and depressive feelings that come with the holidays are the result of losing a sense of gratitude. Throw in the daily drip of inflammatory Christmas cookies and the downhill slide can become a significant physical and emotional burden. Maybe I have lost focus… but we can fix it later! After Thanksgiving, after Christmas, after the New Year...
But what if our days of preparation and feasting for the holy days contribute to our healing rather than add to our burden this year? What if we can “give thanks without ceasing” as St. Paul exhorts so that we might not fall into the pit of regret, self-inflicted illness, and spiritual regression?
It is not easy but it IS simple. Here are tips for making one of the most important changes of your life, for Christmas and beyond…
+ Make a daily gratitude list. Resentment cannot survive long in the presence of gratitude, but it is a muscle that must be worked. If you aren’t a writer, take a couple minutes to make your list mentally. Then… don’t stop until it becomes a way of life.
+ Get out of the victim mindset. Gratitude releases us from our bondage to selfishness. Trouble will always come, but the inconveniences of daily life do not have to hold us prisoners. Selfishness places our irritations and unhealthy desires at the front of our minds, making it almost impossible to be at peace until we have what we want. Gratitude liberates.
+ Make a habit of thanking God for everything. Pretend you are a little child and, always and everywhere, give thanks, even for sufferings. In moments of anger, regret, crankiness… repeat words of thanks and praise for as long as it takes until He transforms you.
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you… May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
HONOR THE GIFT OF THE BODY
Your body is quite literally the only tool you have with which to love the Lord and serve others. God, in His wisdom, created us as integrated people. As long as we live on earth, our spiritual efforts will be connected to our physicality.
Advent is a time of busy material preparation for the great feast of Christmas and also a time to prepare spiritually. But Advent only becomes transformative when we allow the grace to transform our physical preparation ...
Set down the cell phone. Recollect. Increase prayer. Continue with good health habits. Work toward virtue. Fast. Prepare the body, mind, and soul to serve and to welcome Christ!
This season provides a unique opportunity to restore our physical health in gratitude to God who created it. When united with prayer, bodily movement becomes its own form of meditation and a remedy to a world that does not know Him. Thanksgiving Day is a perfect day to rest, restore, and recommit to every healing action.
If I were the enemy of God, I would work to make sure that God’s people entered into the Christmas season sick, anxious, and resentful; their bodies as weak as their souls; their minds occupied with the stress of the minutiae of life, forgetful of gratitude and God. Instead…
I wish to be a living testimony to Jesus Christ. And that is why I don’t give up my workouts, I continue to nourish my body, I try to set my physical life in healing order when the world tells me to give up.
The great power of Advent is the potential for going deeper than we ever have before, closer to the heart of Jesus. If we are serious about our preparations, then we should become serious about prayer. Now is the time to establish roots so we aren’t swept away in the bustle of the season.
There are many good resources for teaching us how to pray. Here, I will just offer two important practical tips for the season:
1. Set down your cell phone. Turn off non-essential notifications. Maybe remove some apps and work only from a desktop. Check your average usage and make a goal of cutting it in half.
2. Turn off the radio. Every corner of our lives tends to be filled with noise. Every car ride, every store, every social visit. Music and programs have a time and place, but perhaps this is the perfect season to restore our relationship with healing silence as well.
Our scrolling and digital activities can rewire our brains and cause us to struggle more with mental prayer. They also consume our time, convincing us that we have none left to spare. Even our participation in Christian community online can deceive us into thinking that reposting memes about God is the same thing as spending time with Him.
Healing this Advent means being shaken from the surface and going deeper into the heart of Christ. To do that includes rooting out habits which keep us shallow and keep us from His presence.
Once we have adopted habits of gratitude, caring for the gift of our bodies for service, and reclaiming wasted time for God, we will find that our health begins to shift. We will still battle with illness, disease, anxiety, deadlines, and other obstacles, but having invited God into the center, we will be more capable of finding the joy and peace of Christmas which so many desperately seek. Thanks be to God!