Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Monday, November 14, 2011

Preparing for Advent

It is now mid-November and I am struggling to figure out where the year has gone. Peering out my window, I notice dark clouds looming close on the horizon, threatening yet another rain; reminding me that I also have no idea where Fall has gone. The weather is sort of warmish today but it comes on the heels of many bouts of cold and rain since Fall officially began. In fact, we have had much rain this year since the onset of Spring, and I'm left puzzling over this fact as well.

And yet, time still ticks on.

So we have seen from the calendar pages flipping steadily from month to month, leading us closer and closer to ending the year; much too close to ushering in a new one for my taste. Christmas decorations have been up in stores since before Halloween. Thanksgiving is but a week away. It seems this last quarter of the year seems to fly by so fast, creating a whirlwind of activity and chaos that often leaves me on the brink of despair.

Advent is fast approaching and I'd like to devise a plan for this year that surpasses my half-attempts from last year. One which solves all of the age-old issues of bustling through the season leading up to Christmas without knowledge of where the best of intentions end and reality begins. Last year we did a few activities which kept with the theme of "Jesus is the reason for the season." I have to LOL here at that phrase. It's so corny yet SO TRUE. And we often forget. In the chaos of shopping and running around and fighting crowds, we do forget why we have this holiday.

CHRISTMAS. It is about Jesus- His entrance into the world, God's gift of love to us poor sinners. And yet, sometimes shopping and "holiday" parties seem more forefront and looming- like those dark clouds threatening rain outside my window. We're not big shoppers. As much as we'd like to be, we're just not. Even if we had the money to be big shoppers, I'm not sure we would be. I'd like to be a big MAKER. Yes, a maker of fun/yummy/interesting home-spun gifts. I'd like to spend my time creating thoughtful gifts that speak to the hearts of the recipients; ones which remind them that they are in my heart and perhaps speak to the joy and love of which this beautiful season is about. I do this on a small scale, but I'd like to do more. My gifts can never be as grand as the ultimate Gift that was given to the world thousands of years ago, but I'd like them to be more special than a brightly-colored plastic thing-a-ma-bob from China.

Advent is a time to prepare our hearts and minds to once again receive that special Gift that was given to us so long ago. It is so important to convey the real reason for the season to our children and make them a part of our preparation. Making an Advent wreath and lighting the candles each week, creating a Jesse tree, making religious decorations and cards are all fun activities to do with the children in preparation for Christmas. Last year we had an Advent calendar that I made from an old Christmas table cloth and in the pockets, I put scraps of paper with a bible verse from the nativity story and an activity idea written on each piece. Sometimes, the pockets also contained a small treat for each child- a piece of chocolate or a mini candy cane. We read the verse from the nativity story and colored a corresponding picture which I printed out from a resource on the Internet. Then we did our activity. Sometimes, it was just saying a prayer for someone. Other times, it was creating fun crafts like cinnamon-scented ornaments, or shopping for gloves and hats for less-fortunate kids.

Every year I feel surprised by how fast Advent approaches and yet, I shouldn't be, should I? Even in the busyness and chaos of our daily life, I should be looking forward to the times throughout the year that we are called to remember and celebrate God's greatest Gift to the world. I shouldn't feel surprised because they happen at the same time very year and I have all year to prepare. And yet, I don't prepare enough. So this year, I'm going to attempt to spend more time preparing activities for the kids and our family to do to remind us of Jesus, preparing my heart for the blessings of the season, and helping to make our home into one that celebrates Him and His infinite love for us.

What do you do to prepare for the season? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Also: Here are some resources for Christmas crafts and activities to prepare for Advent with your children:

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