What a glorious time Advent is! And I’ve been too caught up in the business of Adventing that I haven’t been taking the time to write about it. Of course traditionally (so we have been hearing, especially, in the Anglican tradition) it is a season not unlike Lent. Advent prepares for Christmas like Lent prepares for Easter. The two glorious hallmark holy days of the Christian faith are preceded by seasons of waiting and anticipation, preparation and repentance. So we don’t party like it’s Christmas until Christmas. There are no flowers on the altar at church. The word “alleluia” is suddenly absent from some of the liturgical texts in worship, and the eucharist liturgy is actually altered a bit during this season too, with an emphasis on sin and repentance ~ and, praise the Lord, plenty of grace to soak in.
It is good to be children sometimes,
and never better than Christmas,
when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.
— Charles Dickens
In our family, we remind our kids of the waiting and the anticipation by giving them tiny tastes, little sips. They get one chocolate each night, and one tiny glass of wine at each Advent dinner (which we’ve been doing on Saturday nights, and we love this tradition!). I ask them questions (“what does Advent mean?” “who is coming?” “what does Emmanuel mean?” and more…). We sing songs (they’ve got O Come O Come Emmanuel memorized, and most of O Come All Ye Faithful). We read little books that are toddler friendly to remind everyone of the real Christmas story, and I sometimes ask the boys to fill in the blanks to see what they can recall (“what did Herod want done?” “what did the angels tell the magi?” “what did Mary say when Gabriel told her about the baby Jesus?” “what did the angels sing at Christ’s birth?” etc…).
And the kids are eagerly counting the days until Christmas. Every morning (and probably half a dozen more times throughout the day) they declare the countdown for everyone to hear. They love their Advent calendars in their rooms to help with this endeavor.
Most notably, the children know that Advent is about anticipation, hope, looking back but also looking ahead. While they only get one chocolate each evening of Advent, Christmas will soon be here ~ and on Christmas, they can have handfuls of chocolates if they want! We get a sugary, gooey breakfast with rich drinks. We get a big brunch, and a beefy dinner. There will be wine and cookies. And gifts ~ oh, there will be gifts!! I have put some under the tree already, because the kids were begging… but they are ones that can not easily be peeked into, haha! or they are ones not for the kids. Although even our two year old seems to be embracing obedience about the tree, the ornaments, and the gifts all being off limits for touching. We are thankful for that!
When the kids wake up on Christmas morning, the rest of the gifts will be under the tree, and the stockings will be full. Breakfast will be baking in the oven and coffee & hot cocoa will be steaming. Music will be on, candles lit, fireplace roaring. Gifts and games and laughter and singing and rejoicing will fill the day. And, Lord willing, it will overflow into the days yet to come afterward. Which is just what grace should be like. It should fill you up, then overflow you. And one of the best ways of showing that to children is by the tangibles. For that matter, it’s a pretty downright good way to remind us adults too!
Thanks be to God for being the perfect Father, the giver of all good and perfect gifts, so that we know Who to imitate! Now… may He give us the grace to joyfully imitate Him with vigor, and the mercy to grow closer in our imitation accuracy year by year.
“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast;
that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey;
that Truth might be accused of false witnesses,
the Teacher be beaten with whips,
the Foundation be suspended on wood;
that Strength might grow weak;
that the Healer might be wounded;
that Life might die.”
― St. Augustine of Hippo