Advent- A time for quiet wonder
Last year, we hosted a wonderful Mothers' Coffee all about developing our Advent and Christmas traditions within our families, and how to keep them Christ-centered. It was such a lovely time together, with many good ideas shared, and we were looking forward to hosting it again this year. Alas, like many in-person events, it didn't happen.
Yet, we can still have the conversation, starting here in this message to you all. We want to encourage you in this unique Advent season to reflect upon your traditions and the source of meaning in your families' lives and holiday celebrations. With so many things--even family gatherings--canceled, we can either allow disappointment to dampen our holidays at home, or we can use the opportunity to grow from within.
At its heart, that is what Advent is all about: a time of inward growth and expectation. We can even turn our longing for normalcy into an experience of that longing for Christ which our hearts are meant to feel this season. Here is a wonderful passage from a favorite blog, Like Mother Like Daughter:
“There is one piercing fact of life: That God entered Time to dwell among us.
We — and our children! — have to get ready for this momentous event, and our worship has to be interior as well as exterior.
Advent is a time of fostering this necessary interiority, in the most delightful way possible, by means of the senses. The delight isn’t that of exuberant joy, but its quiet wonder is just as essential to our nature. If we don’t express it and experience it at least once a year, we are missing out on what it means to be a human being.
We (and our children, year after year) live through the darkness of the People of God. This is reflected in the darkness of the gathering winter. We live through the hidden gestation of Jesus — in the darkness of Mary’s womb. We live through the longing of the Church for His second coming.
Just as a baby takes time to develop in the womb, just as Jesus developed in Mary’s womb, so it takes time for us to experience all these truths, some of which are hidden, just as He was hidden. We need each year, every year, to live through it again.”
Leila Lawler, “Advent: The Wisdom of childlikeness” blog post, http://likemotherlikedaughter.org/2015/11/advent-the-wisdom-of-childlikeness/
What could your family's Advent look like? In many ways, it can and should be simple. Do not succumb to the pressure for many and more things--whether to have or to do--especially when we might want to compensate for the strange times. Perhaps you could add one or two new traditions, like a special prayer or song before dinner. Or reading from an Advent devotional. Or lighting advent candles every night. Maybe it could mean a few more acts of charity and service. Here are some concrete ideas, gathered from local families.
- Keep an advent wreath in the dining room and light a new candle each Sunday as you count down the weeks. Sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" as you light the candles.
- Make a special manger for the baby Jesus, perhaps out of clay or using a bowl or something similar. Place this in a special spot with a small bag of straw nearby. Encourage your children to do special acts of service and generosity for others, and every time they succeed they can quietly go place a piece of straw in the manger. See how soft you can make Jesus' bed by Christmas Eve!
- Read together from a special Advent devotional. Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift is very nice, as well as Beautiful Word for Christmas. There are many others!
- Celebrate Advent with a Jesse Tree! The Jesse Tree is a tradition that has an ornament for every day of December leading up to Christmas, and each one represents a person or moment in God's plan of salvation leading up to Jesus Christ. There are many nice ornaments that you can buy, but also free printable versions that you can print and make yourself!
- Keep out some Advent and Christmas themed picture and chapter books to read with the children. Read Aloud Revival has many good suggestions.
- Have a day-long technology fast, in preparation for Christmas. Do a special family activity, like hiking, decorating, making cookies, etc.
- As much as we all love Christmas music, there are also many beautiful Advent songs that express the spirit of the season and help us to await Christmas. We can intentionally listen to and/or sing Advent music together. One favorite album is "Advent at Ephesus" by the Benedictines of Mary.
Above all else, we hope that you can have a prayerful season. Sometimes one of the best things we can do for our children is to carve out time to pray alone, to ponder, wonder and reflect. Happy Advent to all!