As I sat and contemplated how I wanted our family’s advent observances to look back in November, one word kept coming up in my mind: counter-cultural. Everything I want to teach and experience with the boys during advent and Christmas is just different from what I am told I should think is important by media, facebook, and more. We don’t do Santa or elf on the shelf. Not because I think those things are horrible. No judgement here. But Christmas is about the incarnation, and with so much in this world already out there vying for our attention, anything that distracts from that is just….well…in the way.
I always wondered how the boys would react to our different traditions once they were old enough to realize that our family does advent and Christmas a little differently. This year, Elias started kindergarten and that day finally came. He asked me on the car ride home:
E – “Do we do elf on the shelf?”
Me – “No. ”
E – “Why not? It sounds really fun.”
Uggh. I had such a sinking feeling at first. But then hope. Because I could share with him my decision making process for why. And I hope that it has helped him have a deeper appreciation for the things we do.
So what does our advent look like? I wanted it to have three components:
- Spiritual Development
One of the things we are doing for spiritual development is a family Jesse Tree. Each day during dinner we light the advent wreath. Then once the meal is finished, I read them the scripture for the day and we talk about it. Finally they get to color an ornament for our Jesse Tree. We made our Jesse Tree on the first day of advent. Elias was proud because it looks like it is from minecraft.
Each day we also read two stories. I wrapped them up in wrapping paper so each day the boys get to open one. One of the stories is about the nativity story in some way. The other is a fun one such as the nutcracker, etc. I got a lot of books from the library to wrap up, and we also have a pretty good collection ourselves. This has been great because we are getting to read so many different books.
Also for spiritual development I enlisted the help of some good and wise friends to help me pull off this advent spiral with our family group at church. Each child got to walk into the spiral alone searching for “the light of Christ.” Then they brought the candle out and set it along the path, symbolizing them bringing the light into the world. It was a bit chaotic with so many young kids, but a beautiful tradition I’d like to try again.
For service we have done things like buy food for the food bank and donate it, and purchasing clothes for a foster closet. I had other plans that were ruined by the snow so perhaps next year we can try those again.
We’ve fit in a lot of fun as well. We celebrated St. Nicholas Feast Day by putting chocolate coins in the boys’ shoes. Caleb even got to try his first chocolate candy! We also made a gingerbread house for the first time ever!
We’ve seen Christmas lights, made garlands, decorated our Christmas tree, and cut out paper snowflakes, and the boys will eventually participate in the Christmas pageant at church.
I’m hoping that the boys are growing and learning about Jesus’ first coming so that under all the tinsel and wrapping paper of “the big day” they can have a seed of hope and love to carry with them, and they will know the true meaning of the gift we have been given in Jesus, and ultimately, they will be more prepared for his second coming.