We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Repost: The Advent that Almost Wasn't

In November of 2008 we were at the tail-end of our adoption.   Each day brought new forms to complete and our to-do list was growing exponentially.  We expected to get the call to travel on any day.  It was a very busy and hectic season and it was also almost Christmas.  I'm sure many of you have found yourselves in a busy season and wonder how to add "Advent" to it.  I sure did...


Advent almost got put by the wayside this year for my family. Me, a die-hard devotee of all things liturgical, almost said, "Advent is just too much for me this year."

I almost let it slip away....

Yesterday we pulled out the Advent box and spent
some time deciding what we'll do this year.
It has been a very wild year for our family - but especially so this Fall. The thought of pulling out all the Advent items, thoughtfully planning our Advent activities, and keeping up with our various Advent celebrations...well, it all just seemed too much. We needed low-key, we needed normalcy, we needed quiet. Advent was too much work - or so I thought.

What our December would look like - would it be devoid of all things Christmas, sort of a non-Advent Advent? Or would it, as so often happens when something is removed, just fill up with what our pop-culture considers an appropriate pre-Christams hysteria? That doesn't sound too low-key, or normal, or quiet.

Then, it hit me...Advent is low-key, it is normal, and it is quiet. It is exactly what we need.

That is one thing I adore about the Liturgical year - when it becomes a part of your family culture, it can have a stabilizing affect. As life swirls around us, we have the familiarity of the same activities, traditions, smells, sounds, words to keep us anchored. And what better to be anchored to than the Church - the Bride of Christ and, as the Bride of Christ, Christ himself?

My eldest daughter delivering
St. Lucia buns early in the morning.
We will have a beautiful, low-key, normal and quiet Advent this year - with it's bright spots of St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Gaudete Sunday, and other pre-Christmas planning. It will probably be a little less planned out than previous Advents in our family, but that is one of the joys of the liturgical year in the home - the more you do it, the less pre-planning it takes!

I encourage you - if you think Advent is just too much, reconsider! If you've never celebrated or kept Advent before, start simply. If you've done it for many years, scale down if you must. But don't miss it. It is a season of quiet joy and expectation. You'll find that it properly places Christmas at the pinnacle of the season, rather than on a precipice.


Need some ideas for keeping a simple Advent (whether it is your first or fortieth?) Read on.

How do you plan a simple Advent? What are the essentials? Well, there are as many different traditions of Christian worship as there are "essentials" of Advent. But, since you are here, I'll share my family's essentials.




:-: Using an Advent Wreath - Some families are diligent to use their Advent Wreath every day, we are not so diligent...and to be honest, even some Sundays we find ourselves a bit worn out from a full day with our Church family. But pick a night of the week, Wednesdays or Fridays might be logical, to do your Advent Wreath lighting and devotional. There are many suggested devotionals online.



:-: Celebrating St. Nicholas Day - If you have children, I highly encourage you to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Even if you still have "Santa" on Christmas Eve, you can have a celebration on his feast day and let St. Nick come fill up stockings or shoes with some little treats.






This was an easy but very pretty Advent
centerpiece. 
:-: Limiting Christmas decorations - There are many schools of thought about decorating for Christmas, but if you are going to truly put Christmas at the absolute pinnacle of the season rather than the precipice, I recommend finding some way to limit your decorations. The goal being to save the most flamboyant decorations for Christmas Eve, Day, and the Twelve Days. Some people hold off on any decorations until Christmas Eve, while others bring out certain items on certain days slowly decorating the home over the Advent Season. (We bring out St. Nick decorations, the Scandinavian ones on St. Lucia Day, we light the tree on St. Lucia Day - but no ornaments, and then on Christmas Eve we decorate the tree and put out the rest of our fun decorations.)


My messy kitchen in the middle of making yummy
Christmas treats.
:-: Special Advent Family Reading - Find a lovely story or devotional that you might read together as a family during Advent. There are some nice devotional stories that you might use...or even something classic like "A Christmas Carol", "The Gift of the Magi", or books with wonderful Christmas scenes in them like "Little House on the Prairie", "Wind in the Willows", "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew", or "Little Women". What I love about these types of books is that the story can be timed to reach the Christmas scene just before Christmas arrives - or just after. Here are some other book suggestions for Advent reading.

However you choose to celebrate or keep Advent, I pray it will be a truly blessed one for you and your family! 

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