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3 tips for a spiritual Advent

St. Francis de Sales compared love to a spiritual fire, a fire that bursts into flames becoming devotion. The  imagery of fire and flame seems especially powerful as we make the transition from fall to winter, as the winter solstice brings the longest night of the year. Advent devotions can warm a family as long as we take care when we build the fire!

1 “ ... Be sure you need a campfire.” When writer David Geer writes a step-by-step guide for campers, he begins at the beginning! Is a campfire what you are looking for? Maybe your family just needs to cuddle under a  warm quilt! We can’t practice every Advent devotion that sounds appealing; we must make a choice. Think of your time as a precious commodity and ask God to help you decide how to use this treasure!

2 Use dead wood, not living branches. Make sure to respect the time your family spends on the ordinary – the  day-to-day activities that bring quiet contentment. These are the evergreen parts of your family life. Trying to start a spiritual fire with green wood just leads to a lot of smoke, choking, and unhappy family members!  

3 Choose the amount of wood thoughtfully. Camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes on the shore of Lake Michigan is one of my family’s favorite activities. As we sit around the fire pit, watching the flames flicker, there is a decision point – should we throw on another log? Advent activities need the same kind of conscious thought. Are children a part of this devotion? How old are they? What family traditions are we greeted with joy? It may be that your family wants to allow time to “sit by the embers” together instead of fueling flames in their wild dance.

Certain resources are needed for a  good campfire experience: kindling, matches, marshmallows and chocolate for S’mores! Advent resources are abundant as well; each devotion can be adapted to suit your family’s needs. Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest from India, told the story of a seeker coming before a wise elder. The seeker, after years of prayer and meditation, longed to do more. The wise elder stretched  hands toward the sky and from each finger came a torch of flame, “Why not be turned into fire?” This Advent, may your family’s love for God burst into flames!