Advent for busy parents
As a child I loved getting our advent calendar – usually a gift from my grandma. All my growing excitement was contained in those little numbered doors with their tiny secrets. Each door was a rocket moment, helping build up the tension, ready for the explosion that would be Christmas. But advent calendars are not just a count down to the main event, they mark the journey of each passing day, and remind us that it’s on the journey that we are transformed. So how to make the most of the journey?
When it comes to advent calendars we are spoilt for choice - chocolate, superhero, Frozen, Disney princesses… Remember all the popular characters will be there for the rest of the year; so be brave and choose one that tells the Christmas story. Look for the ones that offer a biblical quote behind the door or include Christian symbols- doves, stars and candles as the pictures.
Or why not make your own count down advent calendar by fixing up a washing line of numbered envelopes. Wondering what to put inside? Draw the nativity characters, shepherds, angels, donkeys, mix in photographs of your children when they were babies, photographs of grandparents and friends. For older children you might want to include photos or articles about refugees or homeless people, remembering the plight of the Holy Family as they sought shelter and fled danger. Add words like joy, peace, hope or your children’s names. Then hide everything in the numbered envelopes. Of course as well as being fun there is an important spiritual message. Christmas is not just something that happened a long time ago – the birth of Christ is something we celebrate in the expectation of making his presence real and meaningful in our lives. Your family is as much caught up in the story of redemption as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and kings. By including photographs of your own children and family and relating them to Jesus’s birth helps you make the Christmas story real and present.
So you have your advent calendar- now what?
Find a place of importance to put it – a place where it can be seen, a place where you can gather together as a family.
Decide on when it’s going to be opened. Morning suggests itself, but can often be too busy, so I’m suggesting evening time – night-time prayer time. When I was young, during advent, as a special treat, we would say our night prayers in the living room rather than in our bedroom. We would turn off the lights, and light a candle (I especially remember one particular candle. Unlit it was a just a wax picture of a shepherd but when you lit the candle an angel appeared in the sky.)
Take turns opening the doors (a nice ‘learn to share’ moment) and then talk about what you find. Include its message in your prayers. It doesn’t need to last long, but you’ll be building up a meaningful family ritual – the sort that binds families together and one your children will remember all their lives.