The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' website offers a number of resources aimed at helping followers develop a closer connection with Christ during the holiday season. Featured are Advent and Christmas-season calendars that offer daily Scripture readings, prayer and other recommendations.
Need some spiritual inspiration as the days count down to Christmas?
Take a break from online shopping and make a stop at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Advent calendar web page. Starting today, it offers recommendations for activities, Scripture readings and giving aimed at deepening followers' connections with Christ.
Among suggestions:"Consider purchasing Christmas gifts that support farmers and artisans and their families in developing countries and in poor communities in the United States." "Read a reflection about the classic Advent hymn 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' ... and how it helps to remind us that Advent is a season of waiting in the midst of a culture that wants to start celebrating Christmas on the day after Thanksgiving." "Read the story of St. Nicholas. ... Regardless of the facts, St. Nicholas or 'Santa Claus' as he became known in the English-speaking world, is a beautiful reminder of the spirit of giving." "Take a moment to lift up in prayer the struggles faced by neighbors in your community and around the world."
The bishops also offer a similar calendar for the Christmas season, which begins Christmas Eve and runs through Jan. 13, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
New on both calendars this year are Sunday audio "retreats," in both English and Spanish, including music and Scripture reflection from one of the U.S. bishops.
The website also has a number of other resources to help navigate through the holiday season. There are prayers for the blessings of an Advent wreath and a nativity scene, information on penance and a number of reflections for couples and families.
And you might also want to check out the holiday movie reviews from the Conference's Office for Film & Broadcasting. The bishops have 20 Christmas movies on their review list, from 1942's Holiday Inn to 2007's Fred Claus, with their own ratings-system and tips on what to watch and watch out for.