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10 spiritual practices for Advent and Christmas

10 spiritual practices for Advent and Christmas

The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia features 10 spiritual practices Towards a Peaceful Christmas by the Rev. Rachel Taber-Hamilton, rector of Trinity, Everett, WA:

1) Acknowledge your feelings. Whatever your feelings about this time of year or Christmas, acknowledge them. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with those you love, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and even grief at significant holidays and anniversary dates. It’s alright to take time to mourn or express your feelings. Try not to “force yourself” or permit others to force you to be artificially cheerful just because it’s the holiday season. Choose how you will manage your feelings and care for yourself, so that you can be authentically present to others (and to God), honoring your own needs as well as those of others.

2) Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community; come to our various church services or other social events around you – even if it’s just for a little while. …

3) Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like years gone by. …

4) Set aside differences. (This is not asking the same as asking for reconciliation, which can be a life-long spiritual work). As a spiritual practice for the Season, try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. …

5) Budget. Be a Good Steward of the resources God has provided to you, and stick to a budget you can afford. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then, stick to your budget! Don’t try to buy happiness or gratitude with gifts – guilt is always bad credit. …

6) Plan ahead. Scripture consistently reminds us to be prepared – this spiritual practice applies to daily living as well as waiting for Christ (which very much characterizes Advent). Set aside specific days and times for preparations such as shopping, baking, visiting friends, Advent prayers/reading at home and other activities. ….

7) Learn to say a holy, healthy “no.” Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed later. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. …

8) Don’t abandon healthy habits. Christmas is a time for celebration but not for reckless abandon – try not to let the Season become an excuse for losing your spiritual mindfulness. Overindulgence only adds to stress and guilt later. ….

9) Relax. Remember: the song is “God REST Ye, Merry Gentlemen!” Be intentional about scheduling some time for yourself. Spend at least 15 minutes alone every day of Advent as a Mini Sabbath – a sacred time without distractions or agenda; this can refresh you enough to handle what you need to accomplish. …

10) Don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Despite your best efforts and best spiritual practices, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical discomfort, unable to sleep, feeling irritable or hopeless – the season may disjoint you completely, causing you to feel unable to face even routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, please talk to your doctor or a mental health professional….

Read it all at Bishop Rickel’s blog.


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This is a very thoughtful and helpful piece for almost all of life, not just Advent/Christmas. I do have one correction: The 1982 Hymnal has it “God rest ye merry, Gentlemen.” Where merry describes or prescribes the rest, not the gentlemen. It may be hard to do but that’s what it suggests. Best wishes, Ron Miller

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