Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Inspirations

I love to decorate for Christmas.

But I prefer to do it very slowly. 

The halls of most American yuletide-loving homes are fully decked by the close of Thanksgiving weekend, but that's when I'm just beginning my process. Armed with bits of paper, tree branches, fishing line, assorted garlands, and twinkle lights, I expect to spread the job out over the next few weeks.

Here, in day-to-day installments, is the story of how my house is getting ready for Christmas.

* * * * *

Advent is the month-long season of preparing for Christmas.

During the changing seasons of life, that preparation may mean many different things. 

When my girls were young, we filled our Advent cupboard with ideas for making and doing things the things that children love to do at this time of year. You know, stuff like

baking Christmas cookies,
going out to see Christmas lights,
writing out our Christmas cards,
acting out the Christmas story,

and reading lots and lots of Christmas picture books.

Nowadays, my girls are young adults, and I'm not gonna lie. They are a wee bit tired of finding those same old ideas cropping up in the Advent cubbies, year after year after year.

So I decided it was high time to let go of those tired old Advent activities and consider some new ideas for preparing our hearts for the coming of the King. 

After plenty of brainstorming, I came up with this plan.

We divided up the 25 days of December among the family. 

For each assigned day, we were individually responsible for coming up with a short action that we could each complete independently, to inspire thoughts of the upcoming holiday. Those ideas were written out on individual slips of paper, and tucked into the appropriate door.

Then, on the corresponding day, each one of us, on our own schedule, may open the cubby and read the paper inside, which then prompts us to do something seasonally appropriate.

Here's a day-by-day breakdown of our Advent inspirations:

1. Read Isaiah 9:7-8.
2, Hope: "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." - Carl Sandberg
3. Make yourself some hot cocoa today.
4. Read the lyrics to Silent Night.

6. Read Luke 1:27-35.
7. Peace: "What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." -Mother Teresa
8. In the spirit of the season, do something nice and unexpected for someone else.
9. Read the lyrics to Away In A Manger
10. (Busy college student still owes an idea here.)

11.Listen to Christmas music during dinner. 
12. Joy: Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God. -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
13. Google Image Search "aurora borealis."
14. "Remember, if Christmas isn't found in your heart, you won't find it under the tree." -Jennifer Carpenter
15. (Busy college student still owes an idea here.)

So far, the plan is working. 

I've noticed that we all tend to visit the Advent cupboard before dinner. While I'm putting the finishing touches on the meal, the workday warriors arrive home and each file through the kitchen, pausing at the Advent cupboard to open the little door, unfurl the heavy brown paper slip, and consider the words on the page.

While we eat, someone might comment on the quote or reading of the day. In the evening, we might share via text message our favorite photo of the Northern Lights. We might even make up a big batch of hot cocoa and drink it all together.

We may be on to a new tradition here.

But never fear. We'll still be whipping up batches of sugar cookies and strolling around the neighborhood after dark to check out the light displays. Because deep down inside, our hearts still yearn for the magic of a child's Christmas and we will never grow too old for those simple joys. 

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