This is my favorite time of year despite colder weather. Christ the King Sunday is this weekend and Thanksgiving is right behind it. Advent is quickly approaching, which means our wedding anniversary will also be celebrated soon. It has been one year since my health “crash” and as I reflect back on the lessons I’ve learned, I see the blessings in the experience. One of my first lessons was in living out the Advent season. I couldn’t shop, couldn’t decorate and, well, pretty much couldn’t do anything that took any amount of energy over getting dressed. Spending nearly two weeks at a convent allowed me an opportunity for prayer before the Blessed Sacrament like never before and I drank it in deeply. I spent hours in prayer and spiritual reading, as well as taking lots of time to rest and heal. I long for that time again.
It is not realistic to retreat to a convent for two weeks every year–after all I have been called to the vocation of motherhood and wife, which requires me to be in the world. I can bring the prayerful aspects of the convent life to my family and my home though. We can make an effort to go to Adoration at least once a week during Advent. We can refocus and redouble our efforts for daily family prayer. We can resist the secular model of the holidays and refrain from decorating until Christmas Eve. And then, in true rebel form, we can celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas with joy and festivities. I am still trying to wrap my head around how this will look. The kids and Patrick are with me on this and we are all excited to live the Liturgical Year out loud.
Here is what I have thought out so far:
- The day after Thanksgiving we used to decorate the whole house for Christmas. This year we will pull out the tree, but leave it undecorated. I will put the lights on, but not light them. Then each day of advent we will put our Jesse Tree ornaments on and read the story from the Bible.
- We will also set up the Creche, but leave baby Jesus tucked away until Christmas. On Christmas we will lay him in the manger and sing “Happy Birthday”
- Our stockings will be hung in anticipation of St. Nick’s Feast Day on December 6. We will read the story of St. Nicholas and talk about how his story evolved into the present day story of Santa Claus. And I will remind the kids not to spoil the imagry of Santa Claus for other children whose family’s hold that tradition.
- If the weather cooperates, we will decorate the house with lights and yard ornaments, but they will remain unlit until Christmas Eve as well.
- The kids can set up the new Christmas village and train set that Grandma and Grandpa Allen handed down to us. That will be such a special and exciting activity for all of us!
- We will set up an Advent wreath on our table and take turn lighting the candles at our evening meals. I found short, round candles at the dollar store several months ago and snatched them up. Taper candles make me a little nervous and don’t seem to stay in their holders very well.
- The kids are getting old enough to enjoy the reading of Jotham’s Journey. It is an Advent story that is read each night of Advent and you follow the shepherd boy, Jotham through a series of adventures. I challenge you not to read ahead!
- We will focus on serving others, attending weekly Adoration, and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for celebrating the greatest gift ever given to us: Jesus Christ Our Savior.
- The older kids will sing at the Christmas Eve Mass. For the first time in our married life we will celebrate Christmas Eve at home. After attending Mass, we will arrive home to the house lit up, the tree fully decorated and lighted, and presents wrapped and waiting under the tree.
- We will place baby Jesus in the manger, exchange gifts, and enjoy our family time. This will allow us to relax and enjoy Christmas Day as a family: bonding and playing and praying together like I imagine the Holy Family to have done as Mary and Joseph soaked in the wonder of their new babe.
- Finally, we will celebrate the end of the Season with our married daughter and her family on Epiphany Sunday. This is a tradition we established several years ago when we realized the stress in trying to squeeze several family celebrations into a few days.
I think we will continue school and work up to Christmas Eve and then take off the entire Christmas Season through Epiphany. I will leave it up to God with how well it works out. How will you be celebrating your Advent and Christmas? Have you ever tried to live out Advent deliberately, or are you swept along with the crowd as I usually am? The secular world has made this holy season into a holiday celebration. I think we can reclaim Christmas only when we recognize Advent and truly prepare our hearts and homes for Him. At least this is my hope.