Happy Fourth Sunday of Advent!
This is one of my favorite days in the Christmas season. Yuletide preparations have been underway for almost a month and along with the dinner menus, to-do lists, and stockpiles of gifts, our hearts are almost ready for the Big Day.
While we celebrate all four Sundays of Advent and all are special in their own way, this fourth Sunday is most exciting.
For starters, all four candles - three purple and one pink - are lit and glowing.
And in my family, our little Advent treat bags are overflowing with tiny treasures. Like any good Lutheran, I make sure my family gets plenty of chocolate and usually slip three or four pieces of candy into our bags each week.
^ To keep with the theme of Advent, I often include a small gift that helps us prepare for Christmas. Traditionally, I've given my daughters small, simple ornaments to add to our tree. But given the vast inventory of tree decor that each of my daughters has accumulated over the years, I need to come up with some new ideas for Advent gifts or else they are going to need twelve foot tall trees for the rest of their lives.
^ Tonight, I serendipitously added a new tradition to the mix that worked beautifully. At church today, there was a push to sell the last two Advent calendars on hand. I don't know why I felt compelled to buy one - though maybe it was the Fair Trade chocolate inside - but I did.
If you haven't seen one, an Advent calendar is used to help small children learn the Christmas story and count down the days until the 25th Usually, it takes the shape of a large paper card or lightweight, narrow box.
Always, it is covered with a large illustration of a Christmas scene which is overlaid with a series of numbered squares. The squares are actually doors, perforated on three sides, and the number on each door correlates to the date of December on which it is to be opened.
Inside each door is a small compartment with a surprise inside. The surprises may range from a small illustration to a short snippet of the Christmas story to a tasty nib of chocolate or a small toy. Some calendars may have two or even three of these surprises.
After dinner, I brought it out and we passed it around the table, each person in turn opening a door, reading the bit of story out loud, and eating the candy inside. Since today is December 23, there were twenty-three doors that needed to be opened tonight and it was quite enjoyable to read the bits of story altogether, rather than one single sentence at a time. And my family did not seem to mind eating all that chocolate at once.
^ While it's important to me that our Advent celebrations uphold the holy story of Christmas, I don't object to some secular fun as well. These mod little reindeer with their colored antlers and pom-pom noses lent some spunky cheer to the evening.
But my favorite part of Advent - always - is the candles. Burning bright, lighting the way for us to see our way to Christmas Day, the four Advent candles hint at the blazing glory that is yet to come.
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Read more about my getting-ready-for-Christmas adventures: