Wednesday, December 04, 2013

You're not too late: five ways to celebrate Advent starting anytime

I love Advent.  I love it almost more than Christmas (not quite, but close!).  I love the anticipation, the candlelight, the hymns.  I love Advent calendars and Advent wreaths and Advent activities.  

May I encourage you, though, to not stress about this time?  That would be the very opposite response from what we're hoping to practice.  If you didn't figure out what you wanted to do for the 24 days of Advent, it's OK.  The point is to enter where you are with what you have. 

Today I'm posting an excerpt from my parenting blog series: Family liturgies for Advent and a confession from an exhausted Dad at Christmas.  It's a long post, so I'm sharing bits and pieces over the next couple of weeks.

Today, a few simple ways to enter the quiet waiting of Advent.

You are welcome to join me in my Advent daybook series.  

(Get This Sacramental Life delivered by email.) 

1.  We try to spend some time being quiet:

Uneasy Advent:  A somewhat cranky post from 2010 in which I share what I learned about practicing quiet my second year celebrating Advent

2.  We try to stay home more often:  
"The Christmas season is domestic; and for that reason most people now prepare for it by struggling in tramcars, standing in queues, rushing away in trains, crowding despairingly into teashops, and wondering when or whether they will ever get home. I do not know whether some of them disappear forever in the toy department or simply lie down and die in the tea-rooms; but by the look of them, it is quite likely. Just before the great festival of the home the whole population seems to have become homeless."-- G.K. Chesterton's excerpt for today in Advent And Christmas Wisdom
We try to listen to music, occasionally look at the stars together, dream about the feasting we'll enjoy at Christmas, anticipate the fun we'll have giving and receiving gifts.  

We also pray for and cheer each other on as each of us works to finish all the projects, deadlines and assignments that come with the end of the semester and calendar year.  This can be stressful so we encourage quiet naps, hot cocoa and old movies to enjoy together. 

Once in awhile, we even get crafty and make homemade gifts to give when Christmas comes.  Sometimes we just enjoy the ideas of making homemade gifts someday. 

The point is we try to avoid crazy traffic, crazy stores and crazy commercials during Advent (really all year, butespecially at Advent!).

3.  We look for ways to serve others -- locally and globally

There's no better practice to give to Jesus at Christmastime than to serve the hungry, lonely, poor and sick.  

This looks a little bit different every year but our hope is that during the four weeks of Advent we will have collectively served others with our time, energy and money.  Sometimes we do this in secret, other times we join with others in a larger serving event.  

You know better what types of local projects are needed in your area (I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!) May I encourage you to think creatively and give not just money but face-to-face presence as well?  My mother always invited neighbors she knew did not have family to visit them for a beautiful Christmas dinner during December. These are beautiful memories for me.

For global-focused projects, here are some of the organizations we've partnered with during Advent:

Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog

Live: 58 (Compassion International)

Operation Christmas Child

4.  We light candles, look at art, sing hymns, pray and read Scripture together and we try to do that everyday (but we're more like 4 out of 7 days):  

As far as I can tell, the family practice of lighting candles and reading Scripture together is most often celebrated every Sunday in Advent.  We tend to go overboard a bit around here but it's working for us!

Best tip for you if your family feels awkward doing this: Turn the lights off!  Advent is about waiting for light anyway so it fits.  There's nothing like sitting in the dark looking a few flickering candles to break the ice of awkward family Bible time!

trying not to take ourselves too seriously with G.K. Chesterton

Before you read further, let me assure you if this sounds all holy and somber that is not exactly true to life.  If you know us in real life,  you've already figured that out.  Take for example, the plastic zebra and the 'I heart Bingo' sign that showed up on last year's wreath.  It's a long story, but I'm blaming Chesterton's influence for that one.

Advent devotional books:
  • God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas:  This is my favorite, favorite, favorite advent devotional.  It covers the weeks leading up to Christmas, goes through the 12 days of Christmas and moves into Epiphany.  The full-color artwork is gorgeous and the writings include authors like Eugene Peterson, Scott Cairns, Luci Shaw, Emilie Griffin, Richard John Neuhaus and Kathleen Norris.  We put this book on an easel next to our nativity along with some Bibles for people to pick up and read when they have quiet moments. 

Advent wreaths:

  • Really all you need are four candles and some greens.  When I was at Central Market on Sunday I realized they were piling up branches they'd cut off from their tree lot and just stacking them up in a cart.  I took a few home with me!  Like Mother, Like Daughter shares good ideas for busy people here.
  • Advent Calendar from The Ambrosium:  I've raved about this new addition to our family Advent celebration here.  (*Note: The shop is only open until December 7.)
Christian Activity Advent Calendar, Nativity Images, Bible Story Cards, Angel Art, Vintage Illustration, Prayer, Service,  Christmas
photo credit: The Ambrosium

  • The Cradle to the Cross Wreath:  I've mentioned before how much we've enjoyed using this wreath for our Advent, Lent and Pentecost celebrations.  You can go to Ann Voskamp's site to see how her family uses the wreathe for Advent.  We have enjoyed it so much, but also do recommend using dripless candles!

Click here to visit a site with all sorts of Advent information and resources.

5.  We sing this song.  A lot.

Blessed Advent to you and yours!

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