“All the leaves are brown. And the sky is gray.”

As we lean into another Advent, that opening line of “California Dreamin’” plays in my head. In the part of the country where I live, a warm, magnificent autumn has suddenly turned into a cold, gray winter.

The abrupt coming of winter sparks a little sadness. It’s a reminder of the swift passage of time, the brief moments of the cycles of our lives. And so, we go into a season of waiting. In our Christian tradition, we wait for the Savior’s birth, the reception of the Savior into our hearts and the second coming of this Savior, promised to us in Scripture.

In the busyness of a culture that often prioritizes spending and consumption, it’s hard to focus on the bare bones of our faith. But the cold, gray winter invites us to be more reflective.

But how? Again, the traditions of our faith inspire.

Do you have a creche for your home? This simple portrayal of Luke’s Gospel story was supposedly St. Francis of Assisi’s idea, and what a great idea it was. A soft candle burning by the creche on a dark, wintry Advent morning beckons us to prayer.

Do you have an Advent wreath? Catholics light the candles, adding one each Advent Sunday, at Mass. But your own set makes a beautiful dinner table centerpiece, and every evening as you light the appropriate candles, you might offer personal prayers. Let your prayers be reflected in the light of the Advent wreath.

Giving is a huge Christmas tradition, but it sometimes becomes “getting” for many kids. Introduce your children or grandchildren to the wish lists of your favorite charity or to the giving tree at church. Help them select the gifts and explain what the charity does and how it reflects our faith.

When we lived in Alaska, we had friends who hosted a caroling party every year. What a great way to dispel the darkness and celebrate the community aspect of Jesus’ birth by singing through the neighborhood. With lots of hot cocoa and cookies to follow.

Like life itself, Advent passes swiftly. Let each day find its moment of reflection.

— Effie Caldarola, Catholic News Service

—Published in the Dec. 10-16, 2022, edition of The Inland See.