Offering Up in Advent

I have been meaning to share about this Advent tradition I started in our family many years ago.  This year I am finally getting to it BEFORE Advent actually starts and therefore will finish this post.  We have many Advent traditions.  Most of which we learned over the years from other families or ones that I brought into our family from my own childhood.  This one though, I kind of made up.  Every year we save ALL of the Christmas cards we receive.  The ones from family, friends, the AC company, our dentist, the car dealership and I print out any we get via email.  I have a cute little shiny Christmas Tree tray we put them all under during the course of the season as we get them in the mail.

When we take all of our Christmas decorations down and pack them up this pile of cards gets put in the Advent box.

YES I HAVE A SPECIFIC BOX JUST FOR ADVENT!!!!

I guess this is a bonus tradition I am sharing with you.  I’ll back track for a minute and go over this box.  I’ve been doing this Christmas thing for my own family for 24 years now!!!  For many years I would scramble to get the Advent things down from the attic.  I’d remember late and then have to climb up there and go through the Christmas boxes to try and remember where I put all the Advent stuff, crouched in the attic, sometimes freezing, sometimes burning up…it’s Texas!!   Then one year, probably about 15 years ago, my mom gave my husband and I our Christmas presents in this cute box you see above.  She actually did this for all 8 of her kids presents.  🙂  I had the bright idea to utilize that box to put ALL the Advent stuff in and put it easily accessible in the attic.  The next year…BAM…Advent stuff was down in a snap and I was ready to begin Advent!!

Now back to the Christmas cards.  So they get put in the Advent box.  When I get my Advent box out to prepare for Advent these cards come out and go directly ON the cute shiny Christmas Tree tray, new ones go under the tray.

When Advent begins and we have our homemade Advent wreath in the middle of our dining room table we take a card and stand it up in the center of the Advent wreath each morning during morning prayer.  Then we all offer up for whoever the card was from, family, friends, the AC guy, one year we even got a card from Betsy Price, our mayor, because of all the political work I used to do.  We’ve offered up for Catholics, protestants, pagans, atheists, etc.  You name it.  If we get a Christmas card from you then we offer up for you.

Side note on offering up…I’m assuming the majority of people taking the time to read this are Catholic, but just in case you are not or you are a Catholic who has somehow never heard of offering up before, I’ll explain. As Catholics we believe that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in addition to saving us, taught us so much by his suffering and death on the cross. One of those things is to turn our sufferings, sacrifices, annoyances, persecutions, wrong accusations, humiliations, ridicules, basically anything, into a prayer!! When we Catholics say “offer up” or “offering up” what that means is we literally take what the devil would have for his evil motives and offer it to God as a prayer.  So offering up for someone is to pray for them through our willingness to embrace our crosses.  If this can be done with joy and not complaining all the better!!

This has become a family tradition we all have grown to love and look forward to.  It is such a good feeling to pull out a different card each day and be intentional with our big & little sacrifices that come about during Advent, whether that be our own personally chosen sacrifices our just the stuff life throws at us.  This act, no matter how big or small, really helps put a tangible face, so to speak, on our Advent sacrifices.  I have seen my children become intentional, making the choice to go without or to practice being more virtuous in one way or another because they have a specific person to direct that sacrificial prayer towards.

I did this years ago with a moms group.  We had a specific person from the group that we all offered up for every day of the week, but this ended when the moms group fizzled out.  A good friend of mine does this year round with a little offering up ring they put the names of friends of the family and priests on to offer up for each and every day of the year.  It has been on my todo list for many years to incorporate my friends idea for the entire year.  I have gotten as far as starting a list of names (starting with all the priests and religious we know) on the computer that I planned to print and cut out.  This post may just be the thing that propels me to actually finish this and accomplish this long awaited desire of mine.  I’ll be sure to create another post about that…or at least post pictures of it on Instagram when I am done.  I know I have until the end of the Christmas Season as we will be going through our Christmas cards until then.

I hope that you will incorporate this Advent tradition into your family.  You most likely didn’t save any of your cards from last year, but that’s ok, you can start now.  Simply make a list of everyone you will be sending a card to or giving a gift to and cut out the names fold them up and put them in a bowl.  Each day draw out a name and offer up for that person or family.  This is one Advent tradition that can be done with little effort and such a big reward!!  We won’t know just how big until we are in Heaven…God willing!!!