Can you even believe we’re already talking about Christmas? It seems like it was just summer. Our live-chat on the Facebook page last week surprisingly put me in a holiday mindset. (It was so fun).
But my mind isn’t focused on a Decorate All The Things way (though it’s getting there)—the switch for me was more internal, about my heart and my attitude. Sure, I’ve been working on my holiday to-do list—ordering cards, buying a few gifts, penciling events on our calendar. But I don’t feel stressed right now. I feel joyful with anticipation. I’m really looking forward to Christmas this year.
I love the Advent season. There’s something special about the anticipation of something, about enjoying the destination towards a grand event. Advent comes from the Latin word that means “arrival”—it’s the anticipation of a notable person, thing, or event. And since I’m a Christian, this means that for me, Christmas is about anticipating the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Now, I know not everyone reading this blog shares my worldview, and that’s totally fine. As always, you are completely welcome here. Really.
Regardless, I feel compelled to encourage each of us to not wish away the holidays, nor to speed up the entire season in order to make merry on one day in December. Savor it. Live slowly through the season. Enjoy the ritual of preparation, and of soaking in the rhythms so many around the world celebrate in unison.
Today I’m sharing some resources that help me in preparation for Christmas Day—to enjoy days one through twenty-four. It makes the twenty-fifth all the more special.
1. A guidebook to help me focus
My friend is a contributor in a four-volume series called Let Us Keep the Feast—the first one released about a month ago (my friend’s words are in the forthcoming one covering the Easter season).
This is a fantastic resource for those of us fascinated by the Church calendar, but don’t really know much about it (that would be me). Let Us Keep the Feast is a basic explanation of the celebrations, feasts, and holidays in the Church calendar, and why they matter.
This volume is full of ideas for readings, recipes, activities, and ideas for the four weeks of Advent and for Christmas Day. Each chapter is divided by calendar, traditions, in the kitchen, beyond the home, and resources. It encourages you to keep things simple—no pressure at all do everything.
The digital version is under a dollar—I highly recommend it as an excellent set of training wheels to help you stay balanced during the potentially-busy holiday season.
2. Personal daily reading
As a parent, I find it way too easy to focus on my kids’ holiday season and put my own off to the side. That’s why I was so thrilled that my friend Ann released her new book, The Greatest Gift. As I mentioned in my book review, “[This is] a Jesse Tree ritual—for me. …Ann’s powerful poetry of words are strung together so that I can be reminded on those dark, cold hours of Christmas that I have reason to rejoice just as much as my children.”
This is a daily holiday devotional for adults. Much needed for me. This book will give me an excuse to slow down and reflect, renew, and rejoice in the season.
Plus, free printable ornaments!
3. A reading and activity for the little guys
Our two younger kids, both boys, are almost six and three-and-a-half. You might wager a guess that they don’t sit still for long, nor do they really soak in some of the deeper, more complexly-written Jesse Tree devotions out there. You’d be right.
I love my friend Amanda White’s ebook, Truth in the Tinsel. It is exactly the right age for them, and it includes things like listening for a special word in each reading (which are short! hallelujah!), conversation starters, and craft ideas. The whole thing shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes.
Here’s what I really love—printable ornaments the boys can just color and voila!, new ornaments for the Jesse Tree. Honestly, I love the idea of art projects, but I’m just not one of those parents in to kiddie crafts, so this is a godsend for me. Plus, the boys love ShrinkyDinks, so we’re gonna shrink the heck out of these ornaments on printable ShrinkyDink paper and see what happens.
Amanda’s also got a code for you guys—download the ebook and use ARTOFSIMPLE20 to get 20% off by December 24, 2013!
4. Reading for my slightly older one
The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughrean is just about the right reading level for her, so she’ll go through this book independently. It’s a modern-day tale about “a cantankerous carpenter is distracted from his work of carving a Jesse tree in the local church by a talkative youth who isn’t bothered by the man’s gruff nature.” Divided into readings leading up to Christmas, it’s a fun twist on the traditional Jesse Tree.
5. A ridiculously easy Advent calendar
We also do an Advent calendar, each day revealing a fun activity throughout the season. Here’s why it’s so easy: because it’s full of stuff we’d do anyway. But by officially writing it on the calendar, somehow it seems more special. Seriously, we’re talking things like, watch ‘Elf,’ drink hot cocoa and look at Christmas lights, and make paper snowflakes.
It really is a win-win: we make sure we do the things we really want to do during the holidays, the kids enjoy the “surprise” of it all, and it allows us to appreciate the simpler side of the season. Head here to see how we made our calendar.
All this might sound complicated, but it’s really not. A daily reading for me, a daily reading for the older kid (which she does solo), a daily reading for the youngest two, and a fun activity from the Advent calendar. Doing these things as a ritual center our minds on where we really want them during Advent.
Next week I’ll share thoughts on how we keep the “I want that!” monster at bay during the season, and why we now also celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6.
Your turn—what are your favorite ways to savor Advent?