by Casey Parrett
The season of Advent and the secular season of “the holidays” can be both extremely joyful and deeply sad for many people. The holiday season seems to bring up feelings of joy and love, loneliness and grief – and hope. Year after year, I am filled with childlike hope and eagerness for . . . something. Whether it is seeing a certain grade on a report card, a reunion with particular friends or family members, a special tradition I look forward to each year or the hope that this will be the year I get to bring that “special someone” home for Christmas, there is always something I focus on each year.
Advent is the season of preparation for the birth of Christ. During this season, let’s focus on preparing the way of the Lord, waiting faithfully for his coming, taking time to be holy and to be intentional about being in God’s divine presence.
The actions suggested in this Advent devotional are things I do each Advent. As a college student, I find that these faith practices help me stay grounded during a busy and stressful time of year. This devotion is not meant only for students, though it will work well on campus. All are welcome to use this devotional. My hope is that this four-week devotional will help guide your spiritual practices throughout this month. May God’s peace be with you wherever you are.
Week 1: Preparing
November 27 to December 3
Prepare the way of the Lord. This week, be intentional about giving thanks for your many blessings and preparing for Jesus’ coming.
Action: Take time to lighten up
Use this week to rid your life of things you no longer need, whether it’s clothes you no longer wear or relationships that have gone toxic. Donate clothing to charity. The YMCA, a national organization, accepts used clothing and is found in most college towns.
Also, stop participating in toxic relationships and focus on people who lift you up. Be ready and willing to do what God calls you to do.
Scripture: Romans 13:11-14
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
You sent your only Son to us so that we might know you better and live eternally with you. Forgive us for the times we fall short and help us prepare for your coming. Guide us in preparing, either by letting go of possessions or habits or relationships, or by taking on new things to help us be the best version of ourselves. Watch over us as we await your arrival. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Week 2: Waiting
December 4 to December 10
We wait for the Lord, for his coming is near.
Action: Take time to be grateful
Waiting is very difficult – but necessary. During this time of waiting, take time to be grateful for all your blessings and continue to prepare the way of the Lord. Consider starting a gratitude journal. Every day this week, write down five things for which you are grateful.
Scripture: Matthew 3:11-12
I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
Thank you for this time of waiting. Please help us to be faithful as we wait for your coming. Fill our hearts with joy and peace, and allow us to spread the hope of your coming to all we meet this week. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Week 3: Take time to be holy
December 11 to December 17
God’s peace is something we all need. It is important to take time to rest and renew ourselves in God’s word.
Action: Practice meditation
This week, practice yoga or meditate with a short prayer or verse from Scripture. Set aside time to be peaceful and immerse yourself in a sacred state of being. Start slowly with a ten-minute breath prayer and invite yourself to do a bit more each day. Add five minutes each day and by Saturday, you will be able to be keep that peaceful state for 40 minutes.
Scripture: Philippians 4:6-9
Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. . . . and the God of peace will be with you.
Prince of Peace,
Thank you for knowing us and loving us. You know the burdens and anxieties we carry with us. We are sorry that we do not always trust you to lift these burdens for us. Please help us focus our minds on you, so that we may know your love and peace. Help us to spread your love and your peace to those around us so that they might know your peace, too. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
Week 4: Being Present
December 18 to December 24
As God is ever present with us, this week let us focus on being present with others.
Action: Take time for quality time
Rather than focusing on presents, this week focus on being present. Allow yourself to be fully in the moment, listening with heart and mind to family members and friends. This is often the best gift of all.
Scripture: Matthew 1:23
Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.”
Dear Emmanuel, God-with-us,
Thank you for always being near. You know how difficult it is for us to dismiss our distractions and be truly present. We are sorry for the times we fail to do this. Please help us to focus our attention on each moment and to be fully present in it, so that we may know the joy that comes with being present. In your holy name we pray. Amen.
1. How are you relating to God this week? What are you doing daily, weekly and monthly to nurture your relationship with God?
2. In what ways are you living out the spiritual practices of preparing or waiting or taking time to be holy or being present this week?
3. Which spiritual practices that you have begun (or strengthened) this Advent are you going to continue doing the rest of the year? Is there a new spiritual practice you would like to take on individually? With a group?
Casey Parrett is a senior studying public relations and marketing at Virginia Tech. She is an active member of The Well Lutheran Campus Ministry and enjoys planning activities and retreats for the group.
Photos by Unsplash.com. Used with permission.