When my children are grown and reminisce about their childhood experiences of Advent, I hope they remember peace. I hope their souls are all filled to overflowing with quiet.
I hope that when the calendar flips to December and the rest of the world spins up into a frenetic pace of panic, their souls transtion into a state of being rather than a cacophony of doing.
I want them to remember cozy fires and twinkling lights, warm cocoa and nourishing stories.
Above all, I want them to remember an overarching sense of calm. Advent is a time of waiting, of sweet anticipation- we know Who is coming! Our time of preparation ought to be so tightly bound up with peace and contentment that it cannot be untangled, no matter how hard the world tries to do just that.
We Were Made for This
When my kids are all living out their grown-up lives, I hope that Advent calls them to worship. To seek Bethlehem. I hope they feel it so deep within their bones that they fall to their knees to wait on the Holy Child.
People look East and sing today. Love, the Lord, is on the way! We were made for this. To wait on Him. To hope. To expect.
It seems to me that we have this paradoxical tendency to spin ourselves up into a frantic panic over holy seasons.
In our sincere desire to capture the best that Advent has to offer, we forget that the essence we seek is actually dependent on silence, simplicity of heart, and restful spirits. Really, how many of us would call Advent a restful time of year?
But… shouldn’t we?
I’m not really interested in concocting complicated plans or extravagant celebrations.
No, I’m interested in finding a way to look East with my family, and that just looks a lot slower and simpler than the rest of the world looks this time of year.
There will be storybooks. And a few rituals tied to feast days, naturally. But I hope to remember that the rituals are not the goal.
The rituals, formative and poetic as they are, are a means to an end. Beautiful, soul-nourishing, life-shaping means to a higher end: waiting on Him.
Our plans for a meaningful Advent:
- Memorize Luke 2. I got this idea from Mystie. We’re going to listen to the chapter every single day. Then we’ll do it next year, and the next. By the time my children are grown, I want them to have this chapter so ingrained into the fiber of their hearts that it hums in the background of their every thought all Advent long. Actually, I want that for me, so I’m going to give it to my kids, as well.
- Sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel while we light the candles on our Advent wreath. Keep the candles lit during dinner.
- Read Bartholomew’s Passage*. Last year we read Jotham’s Journey and it was a highlight. (And here I’ll give my standard Ytreeide disclaimer: the man is a master storyteller. His books are just so good, and I mean that in the fullest use of the adjective. They are also quite intense, so if you have particularly sensitive children, you may want to do a quick pre-read to see if they are a good fit for your children at whatever ages/developmental stages they are in.)
- Get to confession. There is no better way to greet the baby Jesus than with a heart that’s prepared to receive Him.
- The Jesse Tree: but I cannot for the life of me manage to gather everybody every single day to add the ornament and talk about it. Instead, we’ll put up all seven ornaments for the week each Sunday. Once a day is hard; once a week I can do. (click here to learn more about what the Jesse Tree)
- Pray the St. Andrew Christmas Novena and the Liturgy of the Hours (morning and evening prayer) as often as humanly possible.
And then there are all the normal things like chocolate calendars (yes, we like the chocolate ones) and singing at a nursing home and driving around to look at Christmas lights.
We’ll read our favorite picture books and sing carols and decorate our tree.
But the heart of Advent is about remembering that we were made for this- made to wait on the Lord, made to rest in His peace. Everything else is just gravy.
People look East and sing today. Love, the Lord, is on the way.
Let’s look East, then.
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