Christmas is coming. I can no longer deny it. In fact, the holiday train left the station weeks ago. I saw the first decorations well before Halloween. I love Christmas, but it's difficult to maintain that "Holly Jolly Spirit" for three months.
So, when I heard that someone was going to speak to my Moms group about "Holiday Traditions," I sulked a bit. I don't need more stuff to do. We already hang lights, put up the tree, buy gifts, hang stockings, bake cookies, make gingerbread houses, go to Christmas parties and concerts. What more do I have to do??? But, the presentation was a delightful surprise. Beth Lamright has spent much of her life figuring out how to help families navigate through the sea of traditions and find the ones that will point their kids toward Jesus.
So, last weekend I found myself at the craft store with my kids. We picked up some items to make a family Advent wreath. We picked out a nativity set with moveable characters. We prepared. That's what "Advent" is about -- preparing the way. Instead of letting Christmas wash over us in a flurry of blinking lights and loud music, we have a plan. This Sunday, we will celebrate the first Sunday in Advent, letting our oldest child light the first candle, reading a verse and discussing it. My kids are SO excited. "We get to light the candles???" They are already asking questions. "Why is one candle pink? What do the other colors mean?" Discussion doors are opening with no nudging from Mom and Dad.
The other thing we will begin on Sunday is the Journey. We will set up the manger scene, but we will fill it only with animals. Mary and Joseph will be placed in the farthest corner of the house. Every night they will move a short distance closer to Bethlehem on their journey. The kids will wake every morning and find them in a new location. They will not arrive at the manger until Christmas eve. Jesus will show up Christmas morning.
Together we have been reading a book about the real Saint Nicholas. We will be honoring his life on Saint Nicholas Day (Dec. 6th) with stockings filled with treats for the kids. We're already discussing how we can help someone secretly, like Nicholas. The kids are already viewing "Santa" with new eyes.
What a fantastic way to build excitement. We will still celebrate with gifts, cookies and lights. But we will be focused on the story. Thank you, Beth, for sharing these ideas with us. I'm not getting that normal panicky, overwhelmed feeling that usually descends on me this time of year. (Am I the only one?) Instead, I feel ready. I feel prepared.
So now, I'm the one asking the dreaded question: How many more days?