It's sort of an annual thing.
Yet, I'm shocked every year at how quickly it lands in our laps and how little time I am able to dedicate to giving honor the most important human life that ever came to be. I want to honor that time when God humbled himself and entered into a tiny embryo which formed into a small and seemingly insignificant human son. I want to honor that time when hope cried out into the world and gave us a chance to respond.
I've been watching friends who are much better at bringing Advent into their homes than I am on their pages and blog sites. And I found one that I liked so much I decided to go ahead and plan for Christmas 2014.
Yah, I know. It's the last thing you want to do the week before "Happy New Year". But I think, and this is just a hunch, that if I'm planning Advent all year long, the chances will be greater that my heart will get stickier for the coming of Christ in my life every day--not just Christmas Day.
A little about her: she's children's pastor, grad student, and wife who nannies on the side. She's passionate about advocating for children and families impacted by special needs, and she feels called to educating and equipping churches to be inclusive of them. I look forward to hearing and learning more from her so I asked her to blog about her Advent traditions for me (and for us in family/ student ministry) so I'd have a starting point. Maybe you'd like to join us, together with your families, on a more intentional Advent journey next year!
A Jesus Free Nativity (Until Christmas Eve)
My husband and I have been married for three years and it seems that, so far, each Christmas is a little different as we try to navigate past traditions from each of our families and create new ones as we begin our own family. This year we wanted to come up with ways to incorporate the season of Advent. It's really easy to overlook these four, short weeks and skip right to Christmas, but the anticipation is such an important part of our celebration. Advent gives us meaningful ways to understand Jesus's birth by realigning our posture from worldly consumerism to holy longing and expectation. (I really love the word "realign" Janette!)
In addition to using an Advent devotional book and having Advent candles in our home, we decided to change up the way we decorate our Christmas tree. Instead of decorating it all at once, we have been gradually decorating it each week with a different color that represents each week's Advent theme. Most of the decorations we already owned are red and gold, so I wanted to make sure we used those rather than buy all new decorations. Here's what has worked for us:
• We put the gold decorations on the first week to serve as a base color. It matches everything on our tree so it sort of brings it all together.
• I made ornaments for each week using chipboard shapes, scrapbook paper, and paint
that have the week's theme word painted on them. You could probably buy these somewhere
if you didn't want to make them, but it could be a great family activity to make them together!
• Week one's theme of Advent is HOPE, and we chose the color purple to represent
it because that is the traditional color associated with Advent. I decided to use purple as
my ribbon color, and we also added a string of purple lights in addition to the homemade
ornaments and a few glass balls.
• Week two's theme is LOVE. We decided on red for this week and used the ornaments
we already had, and we also used this week to add our sentimental ornaments. (You
may have celebrated PEACE on week two instead of LOVE. It seems that protestant
congregations are kind of split down the middle on this. You may want to talk to your pastor
ahead of time to find out which order the themes are being used in your local congregation
and match your home celebrations to that.)
• Week three's theme is JOY, and we chose the color pink because that's the color of the
candle for the third week of Advent. We added a few hot pink decorations last Sunday and the ornaments I made.
• Week four's theme is PEACE (or love), and we chose blue to represent it, so we'll
add those on Sunday. We used little glittery balls I found at Goodwill and the homemade
ornaments, so it was fairly inexpensive to add to our pre-existing decorations. I think on
Christmas Eve we'll add a few white ornaments (if there's any room left on the tree!) to signify the birth of Christ.
This is a system and color scheme that works for us, but feel free to talk with your family about colors and ideas that work for you. Have fun with it as you anticipate and celebrate the birth of Christ! (You can see how her tree came along on her Flickr account. It's really beautiful.)
Another way we anticipate the birth of Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas is to set up our nativity scenes without Jesus until Christmas Eve and without wise men until January 6th (Epiphany). It just serves a visual reminder that Christ hasn’t come just yet! Some of our friends think it’s kind of silly, but it’s a great conversation starter, and it helps us remember to take the time to prepare our hearts for his arrival.
I'd love to hear your thoughts - do you think this is something you might try in the future? How might it work in your home?
Thank you Janette for sharing your tradition with us. I'll look forward to setting up the nativity with our family next year. And thank you for giving me reason to decorate for Christmas for an entire month! I think we'll have a Christmas crate with the items waiting each week. I love your creativity and am excited to hear creative ways to celebrate Christmas with children with special needs!