I think it’s appropriate that I’m beginning this new blog during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, which are the beginning of the christian year. It’s a New Year’s Day of sorts. A time to begin anew and to refocus on what’s important. This is our first year really celebrating Advent in a purposeful way and it brings me to wondering about how to incorporate more of the church year into our daily lives.
I vaguely recall the advent wreaths of my childhood. Greenery stabbed into a styrafoam ring formed a circle on which four candles rested, maybe decorated by some red berries or something festive. I don’t remember much else. My mom tells me that we celebrated advent as we were growing up and she even passed down the guide book she used with our family’s celebration, but the word advent only triggers fond memories of our December activity calendar for me. I do remember the excitement of opening a little piece of paper on our December activity calendar telling us that today we’d have hot chocolate and decorate our tree, or that we’d have a scavenger hunt or make snowflakes. I remember the wooden nativity scene that we could play with and the fancy cardboard one that we could not, but I don’t remember lighting the advent candles and the idea of waiting for Jesus’ birth.
Advent is a season of waiting. Anticipating. Longing for the hope that is to come. For some people this means waiting until Christmas Eve to decorate their homes or to sing Christmas carols. I can’t hold myself off that long because I LOVE Christmas decorations and Christmas music. Some people don’t put their baby Jesus into the manger in their nativity scene until Christmas Eve and their wise men show up there on Epiphany in January. Again, I have a tough time waiting to see my boys play with the full manger . (Are you detecting a pattern of impatience around here? Hmmmm…) I’m sure that my celebration of Advent will change and grow from year to year. Most likely the way we celebrated Advent in this, our first year, will seem ridiculous in a few years as we develop our family’s celebrations. But I don’t think the point is when you decorate and when you sing your Christmas carols.
My goal this year was to emphasize the waiting. To spend a full month lighting candles nightly, adding one more each week until finally on Christmas Eve we light all five, knowing that Christ is born! The boys were so thrilled to light that last candle on Christmas Eve, and I realized that I’d been depriving them of the excitement of anticipating something. We talked every day about what we were waiting for…Jesus’ birthday! We sang every night as we lit the Advent candle. We spent a full month looking forward to Jesus’ birthday and it kept our focus on why we celebrate rather than how we celebrate.
Next year I’d like to somehow incorporate the idea of Christmas as a season rather than just a day. Lots of people celebrate Christmas between December 24th and January 5th, which is Epiphany when the wise men were said to have found Jesus. I’m new to this idea and a bit confused about it, knowing that the Wise Men most likely didn’t show up at Jesus’ house for a few years. I’m not sure how I’d explain the 12 day thing to the boys adequately. But I do like the idea of extending the season after Christmas day and spending more of December focused on waiting. If I can extend the celebrating, maybe I won’t mind the waiting so much! But just discovering how excited the boys were about the waiting to light the candles of Advent and how it kept us thinking about Jesus inspires me to learn even more about Advent and the Christmas season and how we can celebrate them next year.
How do you celebrate the Advent and Christmas seasons?