The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Preparing our hearts, minds, souls

Here's a week-by-week guide of spiritual practices for Advent

I love birthdays. My husband’s birthday was just this last weekend. I gathered a small group of friends for dinner and later brought out the cake with candles glowing while everyone sang Happy Birthday. The look of pleasure on his face made all the work that went into the moment worthwhile.

And it was a lot of preparation. What guests would he like to have with us on his birthday? What should we serve for dinner? What kind of cake would he like best? Even cleaning the house—never one of my favorite tasks—became satisfying because it was done to make the day special.

Preparation is what Advent is all about. We have four weeks to prepare for the big birthday party on Dec. 25, a party that celebrates the birth of the baby Jesus. That baby was destined to be our teacher and savior, and so each year for the four weeks before Christmas we prepare to celebrate his birth once again.

But more than a time for making our homes ready and for buying gifts, Advent is a time for making our hearts, minds and souls ready for Jesus as well. It’s a time to examine and strengthen our connections to God and to God’s hopes and dreams for the world in which we live.

Let me suggest some spiritual practices for Advent that focus on readying our hearts, minds and souls. All are simple practices intended to deepen your experience of this holy season. You don’t need a theological degree to try them. You won’t be graded. No one is even going to check up on whether you’ve done them or not. But I encourage you to give them a try.

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