Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent and Christmas PART 1

December is here and we're in full swing of the holiday season. Many of us have begun to participate in the madness that proceeds Christmas. There are Christmas parties to attend, goodies to bake, decorations to go up, shopping to complete and somewhere in there we hopefully find a little time to try and relax just a bit, oh and actually enjoy the holiday itself.

The Christmas season (or better yet the presents and party season) can easily be one of the most stressful times of the year. The amazing marketing schemes stores put out there can make us hyper to find the best deals for Christmas gifts, we struggle to not overspend, although many of us do and are left paying off Christmas debt for months to come, because for some reason we still see that the best gifts show how much we love someone (which in our hearts we know isn't true). We want to enjoy the season, but with all of the holiday activities most of us find ourselves simply exhausted and frankly by the time Christmas day rolls around we're thankful it's done and over with and we don't have to think about it until the next year.

It's sad. Our desire to have more, more, more and the inability to say NO to all the festivities, the shopping, the overdoing it, leaves us unable to truly remember what the point of this season is. CHRIST, His birth, His life on Earth. This season is not about Santa Claus, reindeer's, elves, the biggest and best presents, etc.

This year to help keep our focus on Christ and to step back from the commercialism of this holiday we are introducing our children to Advent. Officially, Advent starts on the Sunday closest to St. Andrews Day which falls on November 30th, so this year the first day of Advent was Sunday, November 28th.   The word Advent is Latin for "a coming or arrival". It is a time of preparation, penitence and fasting, while also a time of joyful anticipation about the coming of the Lord Jesus.

There are many ways to celebrate Advent and it can be a great time to develop new traditions in your family. My parents began including my brother and I in advent when we were only a couple of years old and to this day I still have many fond memories of us sitting together, reading Bible stories, singing songs and simply spending time together as a family. My mother had a wonderful advent "calendar" by Mary Ylvisaker Nilsen. In it there were Bible stories, songs to sing, prayers and background information about the season itself. There was also a place to write personal notes about what was going on at the time. My mother passed this "calendar" on to me and I now share it with my husband and children. It's so cool to read about what we were doing during a particular Advent season as a child. Now my husband, son and I sit down each night after dinner, turn the lights low, light the appropriate candles on the Advent wreath and my husband and I teach our son about what Christmas is truly about. We sing a couple songs and spend some time in prayer. This doesn't have to be an all evening event, but just a little time (10 minutes or an hour, it's up to you) set aside each day to put the focus on the Lord. Your children are never to young to start this tradition. Our 8 month old daughter enjoys the evening as well, even if she doesn't understand all that we are doing. Don't have kids or perhaps you aren't married, who cares, you can still celebrate the Advent season on your own and how special it can be as you build your relationship with the Lord.

I'm so thankful we are starting this tradition in our family. I am always a person who tries to do too much during the holiday season. I am often overly stressed and exhausted as I want everything to be just perfect. However, what is perfection? Is it really about getting the tree decorated just right and the stockings hung. Is it about finding the "perfect" gifts or going crazy trying to bake all the yummy holiday treats? In the past this was my flawed idea of perfect. Now, although I still like to decorate and bake and get nice gifts that isn't where my focus is. With all the time we spend doing all the other "stuff" I'm pretty sure my 3 year old will have more memories about the times we sat around the kitchen table, celebrating Advent together as a family, than he will about what Christmas gift he got and how nice the tree looked.

Last Sunday (the 28th) marked the first day of Advent


  1. Therese, I was just reading about advent and thinking I wanted a calendar. Do you have a link for a good one? I would love to start this tradition in our home.

  2. You know what Diana, I don't have a good link for one. The one I'm using, which I love, is out of print, but can be purchased used:

    I was actually really disappointed when I went looking for Advent calendars this year. Most of them had very little information and concentrated on gift giving. My Mom knew I was frustrated and that's why she passed her calendar on to me. It's actually not so much a calendar as a book with stories, songs, etc.

    I am going to keep looking for calendars and if I see a good one I'll be sure to let you know! You'll love sharing this time with your boys and husband.

  3. We read a great book to our kids called the Advent Storybook, which follows a little bear's journey to Bethlehem over 24 nights. It is lovely and incorporates God's message of love and giving for the Christmas season. Well worth it to buy it, we read it every year!

  4. What a beautiful post with so much truth. We have been celebrating advent at our church, and I love the quiet moments of thankfulness and peace it has brought to our lives. We need to back away from all the consumption and instead turn to each other and to God during this season of hope and giving. Thanks for sharing with me, my friend. Have a wonderful end to your week!

  5. Thank you Monet and I hope you too have a wonderful end to your week!


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