This week in my faith tradition, we make a turn towards Christmas and enter a season of waiting called Advent. In the Christian tradition, Advent is the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, followed by the 12 days of Christmas. It is a time of preparation, a time in which those who believe prepare themselves for the birth of Jesus.We wait at the manger with the shepherds, waiting for the arrival of this little one that will bring light into the world. During this time, we focus on four specific themes of Advent: hope, peace, joy, and love. Churches that practice the liturgy of Advent will light a candle each Sunday representing one of those four themes.
Today’s Monday Morning Joe will begin a series on those four themes as we make our way into Christmas. And we begin with perhaps the best of things: hope.
The season of Christmas can be a difficult time for people. It is a time when the sun is down before we get home from work. It’s a time focused on giving, buying, celebrating, and spending time with loved ones. For those who wrestle with depression, lost a loved one, or wondering how they are going to afford gifts, or anything else caused by the holiday blues, it can be very difficult to think about hope.
Perhaps that’s why we are starting with hope. Perhaps it is hope that leads to peace, to joy, and to love. Perhaps it is hope that carries us through the dark valleys. Perhaps it is hope that helps take that forces us to take the first step towards the manger.
I would like to challenge you and offer three behaviors and spiritual habits to practice hope this Advent season:
1). Remember there is a tomorrow.
I have found when we place urgency in the now, we are unable to stay present and mindful. We tend to lose hope because we think tomorrow will not come. The thing is there is a tomorrow. What is unfinished today will be finished tomorrow. Find hope in knowing there is a tomorrow. Practice remembering there is a tomorrow. This doesn’t mean putting off to tomorrow what could be done today. It means do not be anxious about solving all the world’s problems by bedtime.
2) Make a habit to practice gratitude
Write down in your calendar specific times to take a breath and practice gratitude. Name three things that you are grateful for in that moment. Focus on those three things for 5 minutes. You have five minutes to spare. Remember there is a tomorrow, so allow yourself time to be grateful.
3) Practice journalling
Journalling is a way to write out our experience in the day. You can journal whatever your heart desires. Every morning, as part of my spiritual practice, I make it a part of my habit to journal what I am grateful for, what good things took place this week, and what was a struggle. I usually write four or five sentences. It doesn’t have to be long; it just needs to be on paper. This will help you hold onto hope during the season because you can look back and see all the good and see the struggles you have overcome.