Monday, November 17, 2008

24 Days Before Christmas

Advent is coming!

Once again, our family's celebration of Advent is going to be modeled after the Austin family's in Madeleine L'Engle's Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas. In this book, the Austin family does something different every day of Advent to get ready to celebrate Christ's birth. I'm excited that this year, for us, this can even include decorating the banister like they did - because, having moved, we have one ourselves now! (Isn't it fun when a childhood dream comes true?)

Advent was the season when I started really celebrating the church year, and discovered what a good tool it was for teaching the gospel to my children. I'm learning every year that it's also invaluable in focusing my own eyes and heart on Christ. When you see the year not just as Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, but as Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time, then the changing season don't just remind you that the Earth is circling the Sun, but that God Himself came down onto that Earth in order to save us all.

Back to our celebration of Advent. Here's a list of some things that we've done before on each day, and that I'm thinking about doing again, along with a few new ones. The key to doing something every day of Advent, I've found, is to be both prepared and flexible. Have a list of things you want to do, and even have an idea of the order in which you want to do them - perhaps even the day on which you want to do each - but be prepared to change that order and those days. If someone gets sick, it's not the day to try to get all the Christmas packages mailed. It might, instead, be the day to sit on the couch together and read all the Christmas books, one by one. Or cut out snowflakes.

And, with each activity, take the chance to talk to your children about the Incarnation. Tell them about the God who loved them so much, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believed in Him, might not die, but have everlasting life.

So, without further ado, here are some ideas to get you started:

-get a Christmas tree
-decorate the tree
-make snowflake cut-outs
-get out all of the Christmas books and display them together
-make iced cookies
-make candy for presents
-wrap presents
-write Christmas letter
-get out Advent calander (Day 1 or 2)
-assemble Advent wreath (Day 1)
-sing carols and have hot chocolate
-get out the creche
-celebrate St. Nicholas' Day (Dec. 6)
-color pictures of the Nativity story
-make ornaments
-make paper-chains
-make a star for the top of the tree
-act out the Nativity story
-make a wreath
-color pictures with the kids for them to give as presents
-make a gingerbread house
-make ornaments
-make popcorn chains
-make Grandma L's coffee cake
-make Grandma B's persimmon cookies
-donate to a food bank

Those are just some ideas; I'm also going to be checking out sites like The Crafty Crow for crafts for the kids; and we're planning on doing a Jesse Tree this year.

The whole of the idea is, though, to make sure that every day we are doing something to remind us that Jesus came, and that He came because of the Father's great love for us.

Many of the activities involve sweets or decorations, but for kids, this is a good thing, because we can always point out (and if you have a 3 or a 4 year old, you'll get the importance of this) the why of activity. Why are we doing these celebratory things? Because Jesus came (and died, and rose, and will come again), and there is no greater reason to rejoice. To celebrate. To party. :)

Also worth remembering, however, is that all of this is preparation for the party. Advent is actually a minor mourning season; Christmas is the feast. You might put the bulk of the cookies and candies you make into the freezer, to take out during the 12 Days of Christmas (December 25 - January 6). It also would not be untraditional to save some of the decorations you make and not put them up until Christmas Eve. And as you do all of these things, let it remind you to repent, much as the vegetarian fare of Lent reminds you to repent. "Let every heart prepare Him room," as the carol puts it. As you help your kids learn the story, take time to meditate on it yourself, and to make your heart as clean and bright as your home, by inviting the Holy Spirit to examine, convict and renew you.

A good Advent to you!

peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

p.s. This post is written partly for the Carnival of Anglican Advent Traditions, hosted by Kerry of A Ten'o'Clock Scholar. Go here to participate yourself. (And other liturgically-minded Christian bloggers are also welcome.)

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edie+steve said...

Found your blog through Conversion Diary....I'm a new Lutheran and did not grow up with the benefit of the Liturgy. This will be my 2nd year to celebrate advent with my children. So happy to have found your site.

Gioietta said...

I haven't grown up with any liturgical traditions in my christian upbringing. A few years ago a good friend introduced me to all this and I was so intrigued and it was so helpful for my struggling faith at that time to find 'ways' to work out my faith even when I had no 'feelings' see, taste, touch, to let those 'senses' work through me, and not my own internal confusion. (I think I had googled 'church year' to learn more about it and that is how I found your blog and subscribed to it!). I am expecting another blessing around Dec. 13, so this year I won't be able to do as much as I'd like for advent with my two year old. However I still hope to put up the four advent candles! (do I need the exact right colors?) I got an advent calendar and it came with a little book of ideas. Alas I am not crafty at all like you! (don't know how to sew, knit, crochet,etc. and my fingers need more practice b/c my humble attempts to make my own cards and gifts sometimes look pretty bad). Thankfully there was this one idea that I just loved: make a paper chain of prayers for people around the world and hang it on the Christmas tree. I can't wait till these advent ideas (totally foreign to us before) become regular Christmas traditions in our family :)

Kerry said...

Jessica - I'm so embarrassed! You were the first person to send in a post and I somehow managed to "loose" it in my inbox. I've updated the Carnival with your post FIRST. Please forgive my oversight. And thank you for the link back to the carnival.