Ahhhh, it’s almost December! What a wonderful time of year! We have SO many plans to make it an amazing time for our family! And we have so much to do!
We get down décor from the attic. We put together a tree. We start making Christmas lists. The office Christmas party is marked the calendar and so is the Christmas piano recital and pre-school nativity play. The book club wants to have a gift exchange and the hubby needs a pie and 2 dozen cookies for the office potluck. We jumble up the kids in matchy clothes for a cute Christmas photo and then find the best deal on prints for the cards. Oh, and we have to get those cards addressed!
Oh, wait. Advent! What about Advent!? Sheesh, we can’t forget about that! Oh, what shall we dooooooooo……
Does this sound familiar to you? Have you ever been in this place? If you have, you probably have met me there!
This time of year offers a bit of a thrill, the rush of Christmas preparation, the race to get things all done, and done perfectly. But, sometimes Advent gets left in the dust as a result. I hope that we can help each other find ways to cling to what matters most – the actual Advent spirituality that is so essential for us to truly participate fully in this holy season.
So, what should we do, to make sure we have a good Advent, both for ourselves and our children?
As with most things, it’s not so much what we do as how we do it. Rather than making a long list of crafts, activities and lessons to do with our children, let’s keep it simple this year! If we can simplify our Advent into a few, thoughtful activities, I think it will bear much more fruit. There are many ways we could do this, and here is what I am doing with my family this year:
Something to pray – this can be a simple as your Advent wreath. An Advent wreath, with a little prayer book, or the daily gospel reading is a perfect place to start! Children love candles and your family is already gathered together. This simple, old Advent tradition, done with consistency can be so fruitful. There are many great little books you can buy, with daily reflections for Advent. Use your Magnificat, read the gospel with your children and the reflection with your husband. You could also pray the Rosary as a family. Sometimes it’s hard to do this every night, but maybe you could start off praying the Rosary on Sunday evenings. The Joyful Mysteries, of course. Also, try to make it to daily Mass more often. Adding in an extra Mass each week (yes, take the kids if you can) will help us all remember what this time is all about.
Something to read – choose a good book to read as a family. Set aside some family read-aloud time each week, snuggle up in your living room and listen to a good story. Here are a few suggestions: A Christmas Carol, The Christmas Mystery, Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas Stories, etc… Here is a great list to start with! You might also have a nice collection of Christmas story books. Make time to read them to your children! We have dozens of beautiful Christmas books in our home, but I have to remind myself that they’re aren’t just decoration. They’re meant to be read! While snuggling children! And read over and over again.
Something to do – this might be the hard part for you. I know it is for me, because I never want to pick just one thing to do, but I want to set up many activities and crafts for my family. I want to make every free Christmas event in town and attend every party. And then, we either run around frantically trying to fit everything in, or we don’t make it and I am disappointed. So, don’t add those things to your list. If they happen to work out, great! But don’t let them become a bit priority in your Advent mind.
Choose one thing that you want to do as a family. A meaningful activity. Maybe it’s a making a Jesse Tree or collecting donations for St. Vincent de Paul. You can help put together the Christmas baskets for the poor at church, volunteer at the soup kitchen downtown or make cookies for the nursing home. Be sure to participate in your parish events! Help decorate the church for Advent, and then again for Christmas. What a wonderful way for your family to meet new people and really learn about the liturgical season. Don’t miss the parish penance service!
The key here is to do something that is meaningful, to take time preparing and allow you and your family the time to enjoy the process without being whisked away to the next activity or event.
Keep it simple!! When my children were all small, I know I had many a frantic Advent. I spent so much time juggling all the great activities around town with all the crafts I wanted to do with the kids and all the ‘expectations’ I put on myself for baking, photos and gift-giving. By the time Advent was over I could hardly remember what we had done. Much less what we had prayed or how we had fully participated in the true ‘waiting for the Christ-child’. I was exhausted and certainly not holier because of it!
The value of Advent is a million times more than the hustle and bustle of this busy and fun season. Advent is such a rich liturgical time, waiting for us, quietly. We just need to put aside the garland, glue gun and party schedule and go out and greet her.
O King of all nations, Jesus Christ,
only joy of every heart,
come and save your people.
(Please share your own thoughts and tips on keeping Advent holy in comments!)