Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Advent Traditions in Our Home

Friends with a new baby asked us recently about Advent traditions in our home, especially any distinctively Anglican ones. As I described yesterday, there aren't any distinctively Anglican traditions besides the Book of Common Prayer, but we usually do a few simple things:

We put up a Christmas tree and decorate it.

We set out a creche or manger scene.

We have an Advent "calendar"--given to us YEARS ago by a reader of this blog!--thank you! It really is a collection of 24 little books which tell a part of the Christmas story every day; after you have read the booklet for the day, you hang it on the Christmas tree.

We have an Advent wreath which we light on Sundays--sometimes with a short liturgy, sometimes without. (Advent officially begins a new liturgical year on the church calendar, so it always begins four Sundays before Christmas--not neccessarily on December 1.)

We try to keep up with the Daily Office readings prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer. During the year, we go in phases of doing parts of Morning Prayer with the kids, or only doing the readings, or only one of the readings--depending on the church season and how much time we have in the mornings and what other goals we may set for that time.

During Advent, however, I think the readings are incredible. They put an entirely different slant on Advent, because of their focus on waiting, penitence, anticipation of the second coming of Christ, preparation for that day and for possible persecution in the end times--and more waiting. They disconcert, but they deeply prepare.

These readings have generated some great discussion with my older kids--no one talks about the end times anymore! And the emphasis on preparing oneself for the two "comings" alludes to what some have called a third "coming"--the coming of Christ and the Holy Spirit into our hearts regularly as we continually struggle with that "not I, but Christ" concept. "Who is sitting on the throne of your heart?" we ask our kids, admitting that we, too, often push Christ off and decide to sit there ourselves for awhile, until we confess our pride and independence and humbly ask him to ascend His throne once again.

We are planning to incorporate the Jesse Tree readings this year as well. I have avoided the Jesse Tree in the past because it has seemed like too much work--you are supposed to make or shop for a series of ornaments that symbolizes each person or concept in the readings. Ann V. just made it a lot easier with this booklet, her accompanying meditations and her permission to use your Christmas tree as your Jesse Tree (thanks, Ann--I needed that!). You still have to cut out and mount the ornaments though, and I confess I'm not quite ready to commit the time. I think we will just print out the drawings from this site, let the kids color them, hole-punch them and put 'em on the Christmas tree. If we like it, we can invest more into it next year.

I also found, as I was researching (on the Catholic websites, mostly), a couple more traditions we may try. One is to take the Wise Men from your creche and start them out a long distance away from the stable, bringing them a little closer every day. In our home, we may put the stable at one end of the fireplace mantel and the Wise Men at the other and move them by tiny increments (very tiny, as of course they don't arrive until Epiphany, in January).

Another tradition is to "prepare the manger for Jesus" with good deeds. I know we are justified by faith, not works, but let's think of this as a variation on a sticker chart. You encourage your kids to be kind, to share, to serve--you know the list--and whenever you "catch them doing something right," they get to place a straw in the manger (a shoebox?) to "make the bed soft for the baby Jesus." (Actually, there's some good theology there--don't we make our hearts soft in the same way?) I think younger kids especially would enjoy this activity.

What traditions have been most meaningful in your home?


Anonymous said...

We dont put the baby Jesus in the manger scene until Christmas day. Every day my son and I check to see if the baby Jesus is there yet. I think its a good practical way to teach him that Christmas is about Jesus coming.

Anonymous said...

oopss...from Jen in Seattle :-)

Lindsey said...

We've been really excited about advent this year---I've been compiling so many ideas for my advent blog that I've found there is TOO much to do out there. So I have picked a few things to try this year and will do some new things in the future years to come.

This year we're doing Ann V's Glorious Coming for our Jesse Tree and that is so exciting!

I pray this is the most meaningful advent season for us all.

God bless you & Happy Advent! :)

Amy said...

Someday when I get back to blogging again, I'll talk about how we've started celebrating the 12 days of Christmas....