Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A New Tradition: Our ADVENTure

It's that time again.  You know . . . the most wonderful time of the year!

It's also the most busiest time of the year.  I am already overwhelmed with it all . . . the two birthdays our little family will celebrate this week, the birthday party on Saturday, the Christmas musical at church that will be the biggest I've ever done, the school parties, the church parties, the tree that is still in pieces in the garage.  I just don't know how it will all get done.  

I love it.  I do.  But I'm also mindful that the commercialization and materialism of this most holy season nearly suffocates the real meaning . . . the giving of the greatest Gift ever given to man-kind . . . the love story between God and man.  Again this year, I find myself longing for a simpler kind of Christmas, a real kind of Christmas.  As I look at my to-do list, I realize that I'm far away from that kind of Christmas, yet I am determined to stop.  To breathe.  To rest.  To embrace.  To feel.  To go back to that very first Christmas day at the manger filled with hay and the Holy Babe.

Y'all know I love traditions.  And while I continue to hold tight to the traditions from my own childhood, I realize I am not always able to impart those traditions to my own children.  But I want them to have precious memories and traditions from their childhood that they will grow to cherish as dear, even in adulthood.  So I have been very mindful of ways that we can have our own traditions with Mason, Hannah Kate and Ellie.  Christmastime brings the most opportunities for tradition, and there are several that we look forward to . . . packing our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, driving through the living nativity at a sister church in Baton Rouge, unpacking our special family ornaments.  And every Christmas we look for ways to celebrate Jesus and to keep Him first in our hearts and minds.

This year I'm beginning what I hope will be a new tradition.  We are observing Advent, and we have an Advent wreath on our table.
We began our celebration of Advent last night.
Our Advent is inspired by Ann Voskamp's new book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.
The book is absolutely beautiful!  You can use only the book on its own everyday, or you can enhance your celebration of advent with accompanying ornaments for your very own Jesse tree.  I opted to print the free printables and let the children color their own ornament each day.  I knew Hannah Kate would enjoy this, but I didn't think Mason would be too much into it.  I was mistaken.  Both yesterday and today he could hardly wait to color his ornament. 

Our Advent wreath was also inspired by Ann.  When I found it, I was immediately in love. I showed a picture of it to my father-in-law, and he made one for us!  There are 24 small candles and one tall candle.  At supper time, we read the daily devotion and light the candles.  And then at bedtime, we read the corresponding Scripture.  That's just what works best for our family and our schedule.  The children are so excited about lighting the big candle, but we won't do that until December 25.
I just can't even tell you how excited I am about this!  It's the part of the day I've most looked forward to both today and yesterday.  It's a time that, no matter what, I stop.  I stop and ponder and reflect and pray.  And I have the honor of doing this with my children!

I'll be honest though.  As much as I love this book and as beautiful as it is, I do think it's most appropriate for older children.  It's perfect for Mason, and I know Hannah Kate understands it, too.  But if I were in the toddler and preschool years with most of my children, I wouldn't use this book yet.

When Mason celebrated his first Christmas, our Children's Minister at the time gave us this boxed set.  It is so perfect, so precious!  We have used this every year and always enjoy it.  Of course, my children know exactly what's coming, exactly what's in each little box. There's a story to read, and there are seven accompanying boxes or gifts.  As you read the story, you open the box to reveal what's inside.  You build the nativity scene with each of the characters in the box.  The last box is empty except for mirror . . . because what God wants, you see, is you!  This is a MUST HAVE for all families with small (and not-so-small) children!  I've also used this in Sunday School and at Children's Ministry events.

And this is another of my favorites.  My mom gave us this book, The ADVENTure of Christmas, on Mason's first Christmas as well.  The pages are nearly falling out of mine now.  There are a lot of fun activities in here, so many easy ways to teach your children about the real meaning of Christmas.  I've used this book for my own children, Sunday School, Children's Ministry events and even adult parties, too!
Another MUST HAVE is the Little People Nativity Set.  This is something else my mom gave to us for Mason's first Christmas.  We bring this out to play only during the month of December.  This year Ellie is loving it so much!  I love the way she says "Jo-phess, Mar-eee and Baby Jee-us!"  Again, this is such a fun, easy way to teach the birth of Christ to children.  
I know the parties and Christmas plays and presents will always be part of our Christmas.  Those will be things that quickly excite my children.  But it's my prayer that when they one day look back on these days, they will remember with great joy and thanksgiving the ADVENTure of discovering the wonder and beauty of this season that can only be found in the manger.


Mimi said...

I'm excited the ADVENTure will travel to Georgia so Pop & Mimi can be with you when the biggest and best is lit on the 25th, yes??

Anonymous said...

Oh my. I love your advent candle wreath. I want one too! It is beautiful! Will we get to see you this Christmas? Ellee