There is something about getting ready for Christmas that fills us with excitement—young and old alike.
The hanging of lights, the hustle and bustle of shopping, the aromas of freshly-baked cookies all contribute to that "feeling of Christmas" that fills the air during this beautiful season.
Yet we also know that while there is nothing wrong with preparing for Christmas by decorating our homes, baking, and shopping for gifts, there is something behind all of this that should truly fill our hearts with expectation: the coming of Our Lord and Savior.
Holy Mother Church gives us an entire season in which to prepare our hearts for Jesus. The four Sundays and weeks of Advent help to prepare us so that we might remember the real meaning of Christmas.
And yet, with all the busyness of the season, it can be easy to forget about Advent, and to neglect spiritual preparations for Baby Jesus.
The Devotion You'll Love
There is a devotion that can transform your Advent. It's called the Spiritual Christmas Crib—and it's a wonderful way for us to prepare our hearts for Christ's birth!
Written by Fr. Frederic Nelson, this spiritual exercise is meant to build a "crib" for Jesus Christ in our hearts so that they will be worthy of His presence come December 25th.
We invite you to partake in this spiritual journey with your families (or on your own).
Each day of December, there will be one part of the stable that you "build" by practicing the suggested spiritual exercise. There is also a beautiful short prayer to recite as often as you can throughout the day. Come Christmas, your heart will be ready to embrace the Infant Jesus!
May God bless us with a Holy and fruitful Advent.
December 1: The Stable
Frequently during the day offer your heart to the little Infant Jesus. Ask Him to make it His home.
Prayer: Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and pure.
December 2: The Roof
See that the roof of the stable is in good condition, so that the Infant Jesus is protected from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully avoiding every uncharitable remark.
Prayer: Jesus, teach me to love my neighbor as myself.
December 3: Crevices
Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the stable, so that the wind and cold may not enter there. Guard your senses against temptations. Guard especially your ears against sinful conversations.
Prayer: Jesus, help me to keep temptations out of my heart.
December 4: Cobwebs
Clean the cobwebs from your spiritual crib. Diligently remove from your heart every inordinate desire of being praised. Renew this intention at least three times today.
Prayer: My Jesus, I want to please You in all I do today.
Build a fence about the crib of your heart by keeping a strict watch over your eyes, especially at prayer.
Prayer: Sweet Jesus, I long to see You.
December 6: Manger
Fix the best and warmest corner of your heart for the manger of Jesus. You will do so by abstaining from what you like most in the line of comfort and amusement.
Prayer: Mary, use these sacrifices to prepare my heart for Jesus in Holy Communion.
December 7: Hay
Supply the manger of your heart with hay, by overcoming all feelings of pride, anger or envy.
Prayer: Jesus, teach me to know and correct my greatest sins.
December 8: Soft Straw
Also provide your manger with soft straw by performing little acts of mortification; for instance, bear the cold without complaints; or sit and stand erect.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, Who suffered so much for me, let me suffer for love of You.
December 9: Swaddling Clothes
Prepare these for the Divine Infant by folding your hands when you pray, and praying slowly and thoughtfully.
Prayer: Jesus, let me love you more and more.
December 10: Blankets
Provide the manger of your heart with soft warm blankets. Avoid harsh and angry words; be kind and gentle to all.
Prayer: Jesus, help me to be meek and humble like You.
December 11: Fuel
Bring fuel to the crib of Jesus. Give up your own will; obey your superiors cheerfully and promptly.
Prayer: Jesus, let me do Your will in all things.
December 12: Water
Bring fresh, clean water to the crib. Avoid every untruthful word and every deceitful act.
Prayer: Dearest Mary, obtain for me true contrition for my sins.
December 13: Provisions
Bring a supply of food to the crib. Deprive yourself of some food at mealtime or candy as a treat.
Prayer: Jesus, be my strength and nourishment.
See that the crib has sufficient light. Be neat and orderly about your person; keep everything in its place in your room.
Prayer: Jesus, be the life and light of my soul.
December 15: Fire
Take care to have the crib of your heart warmed by a cozy fire. Be grateful to God for the love He has shown us in becoming man; behave with grateful respect towards your parents and relatives.
Prayer: Jesus, how can I return Your love; how can I show my gratitude to You?
December 16: The Ox
Lead the ox to the crib. Obey cheerfully without making excuses and without asking "why."
Prayer: I will obey for love of You, Jesus.
December 17: The Donkey
Bring the donkey to the crib. Offer to the Divine Infant your bodily strength; use it in the service of others.
Prayer: Jesus, accept my service of love; I offer it for those who do not love You.
December 18: Gifts
Gather some presents for the Divine Infant and His Blessed Mother. Give alms for the poor and say an extra decade of the rosary.
Prayer: Come, Jesus, to accept my gifts and to take possession of my heart.
December 19: Lambs
Strive to bring some little lambs, meek and patient. Do not murmur or complain.
Prayer: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours.
December 20: Shepherds
Invite the shepherds to pay homage to our newborn King. Imitate their watchfulness; stress in your speech and thoughts the idea that Christmas is important because Jesus will be born again in you.
Prayer: Jesus, teach me to love You above all things.
December 21: The Key
Provide the stable with a key to keep out thieves. Exclude from your heart every sinful thought, every rash judgment.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, close my heart to all that hurts You.
December 22: Angels
Invite the angels to adore God with you. Cheerfully obey the inspirations of your guardian angel and of your conscience.
Prayer: Holy Guardian Angel, never let me forget that you are with me always.
December 23: St. Joseph
Accompany Saint Joseph from door to door. Learn from him silently and patiently to bear refusals and disappointments. Open wide your heart and beg him to enter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Prayer: Saint Joseph, help me to prepare for a worthy Christmas Communion.
December 24: The Blessed Virgin
Go meet your Blessed Mother. Lead her to the manger of your heart and beg her to lay the Divine Infant in it. Shorten your chats and telephone conversations and spend more time today thinking of Jesus and Mary and Joseph.
Prayer: Come, dear Jesus, come; my heart belongs to You.
All of us at The Catholic Company wish you a very merry Christmas filled with much joy and many blessings!
*Meditations are taken from "Devotions in Preparation for the Coming of the Christchild, and at the Crib, from Christmas to Purification" by Rev. Frederic Nelson, published by Marian House, Powers Lake, ND 58773. (This book is no longer in print.)
This article has been updated and was first published in 2017. Catherine McManamon contributed to this article. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.