As Christmas, 1983, approached, my husband and I did not want to repeat the marathon we had experienced as newlyweds the previous year, spending Christmas Day driving to each of the far-flung homes of his parents and my divorced parents. With Allison newborn that August, we thought it would be simpler to have everyone over to our small apartment in the city. Of course, I wanted everything to be perfect. Although I was in law school and working part time as a law clerk, we decorated a real tree, strung lights around the front windows, and cooked a festive meal for 10 from scratch, including home-baked rolls. After everyone left, my husband and I cleaned up the wrapping paper and did the dishes while tending to our infant daughter.
Maybe that memory inspired me a few years later to attend a talk based on the book Unplug the Christmas Machine, by Jo Robinson. We were encouraged to reduce the stress of preparing for Christmas by focusing less on gifts and decorations and more on the spirit of the season. I learned that Christmas celebrates much more than the birth of the infant Jesus; that every Christmas, Jesus the Light is born anew in our hearts. We thought about which traditions we wanted to keep and which we could let go of. My husband and I bought fewer gifts and waited until the week of Christmas to decorate our tree. I learned to love Advent, the four weeks preceding Christmas. My children enjoyed lighting of the candles of the Advent wreath each night, reading the prophecies of the birth of Christ, and holding hands to pray around the wreath. As they grew, they took turns using a long match to light the candles, and led the prayer.
An Advent wreath can be easily assembled with four candles of any kind placed in a circle, with or without a wreath. Our first “wreath” was four votive candles in a circle of plastic greens. As the years went by, I bought a circular wreath that held four tapers. Some years we used candles in the traditional colors: three purple candles symbolizing our need to come closer to God, plus one pink for Gaudete/Joy Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. Today my wreath holds four white candles. Beginning on the first Sunday of Advent we light one candle each day, adding another candle each week until the fourth Sunday of Advent, when we light four candles each day until Christmas. Possible readings include short phrases from the prophecies of the Old Testament, and, in the New Testament, the letters of Paul. After the reading, you might keep silence, then ask, “I wonder what this could mean?” Without asking for or offering answers, listen and wonder with your child. Close with an invitation for prayers. Following are some suggested readings, appropriate for children of all ages:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness–on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2
“For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6
“I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1
“The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Romans 13:12
My interactive app for the iPad, Who Are You, Jesus? brings the Advent prophecies and Jesus’ message of love from the Bible to you and your child in a beautiful, engaging way that is easy to use. Touchscreen technology makes God’s word accessible to children of all abilities wherever they are. Who Are You, Jesus? adapts to children’s learning styles by enabling them to hear the words of Jesus and respond verbally or non-verbally, using a keyboard, speech-enabled dictation, and a built-in drawing capability. All the child’s responses are automatically saved and become their own, unique book about Jesus. Find it at whoareyoujesus.com
This is the third in my series of blogs about children and adults living spiritually. I welcome your comments or questions. Please share this via email, or on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, using the hashtag #WhoAreYouJesus. Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whoareyoujesus/
Until next time . . .