Adventus......"Coming" or "arrival". A season of waiting and preparing for the eminent coming. The celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ. The anticipation of the return of Christ the King!
Advent began on November 30th this year, but with the hustle and bustle of our fast paced lives, many families forget to mark this celebration. Until a few years ago, our own Advent traditions didn't extend much past seeing the advent wreath lit at church each Sunday. At some point we came to the sad realization that the focus of Christmas for our children had become, Santa and presents. So, we regrouped. I did a little soul searching and a little internet searching. I spoke to some other moms too! Even with the vast internet, my greatest resource is still other Christian moms! In the process, I came up with several things that have helped us keep Christ in Christmas.
First, I made an advent wreath for our kitchen table. It was very easy to do and each year I make a quick trip to a local floral or party shop for new drip-less candles! I have taught the kids that the wreath symbolizes the hope of eternal life and the evergreen branches it is made from, the everlasting love of Christ. We have 5 candles in our wreath- three purple, one pink and one white. One candle is lit for the first week of Advent and another candle is added each Sunday. The first candle lit is purple and symbolizes hope. The second is also purple and symbolizes Peace. The third week is when we light the pink candle, representing joy. The last purple candle is lit the fourth week and symbolizes Love. Finally, on Christmas Day we light the white center candle that represents the birth of Jesus and his purity! For us, the real purpose of the advent wreath is that it serves as a reminder everyday sitting there at our table! A reminder of where our minds are hearts are supposed to be focused at this time of year!The girls coloring a picture from the Christmas Story while I read from Bartholomew's Passage during our morning devotion.
The second thing I did was to find some kind of relevant devotional that can be read when our wreath is lit each day. I chose a set of family stories for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. There are three stories in all, Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage and Tabitha's Travels. These stories are perfect for small-early teen children. I have read one each year and we are on our second go around with them! Each story is intertwined with each other and with the story of the Messiah in such a wonderful way. They are very suspenseful, so that the kids can't wait to listen each day and each short chapter ends with some thoughts to ponder and discuss. Our kids have truly LOVED these books and look forward to each Advent! Another good book to do this sort of thing with would be One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham. I have not used it in years because of the other books but I think I will get it out and read it to the kids over our break right after Christmas!
Recently, family friends gave us some new Advent books that we are thrilled with too! For small kids we have the Advent Calendar (24 mini books) by Tony Wolf, and two others geared at focusing the family on Christ- Seeking the Christmas Lamb by Tamara J. Buchan and A Family Christmas by Dr. James Dobson. We've also used Jesse Tree resources to make Advent special! I know you are thinking that because I homeschool it's easy for me to find time for this stuff. That isn't true at all. My kids are just as busy as yours and so am I. Anybody can take 15 minutes a day to do a devotion with their kids....if they want to!
Now, don't get me wrong....we didn't throw out Santa with the bath water! Paul and I both grew up with Santa Claus and I think there is something to be said for preserving that tradition as well. Last year, Paul's parents gave me a beautiful addition to our Christmas decorations. A Christmas advent house. It is an actual wooden house, all decorated for Christmas, with Santa standing on the balcony! There are 25 windows or doors with little cubbies that I can fill with candy or prizes. Each day they get to open a new door to reveal the prize. Naturally, the kids love this too!
And to keep them focused on GIVING rather than receiving....we do several things! First, we usually participate in Operation Christmas Child where the kids fill a shoebox with toys and gifts and we leave them at the church to be shipped overseas to children there. And, we always bake something for our wonderful neighbors. I make sure the kids are involved in the baking and they deliver the gifts the week before Christmas.
Claire loves to find the candy!
Well, it's a little extra work on my part, but the end result is that Christmas turns out to be about more than lists and shopping, as we build up to THE DAY!