I love Advent. I love the joyful anticipation of the birth of Our Savior. I love getting the house ready, putting up the decorations (and don't judge me, they go up as soon after Thanksgiving as humanly possible--and because my husband was going to be working a lot during the holidays, I must meekly admit that they went up before Turkey Day this year). I love the shopping for or the hand-making of gifts, the wrapping. I even love the trips to the post office to ship out gifts to far-flung family members. (It helps that we have the most cheerful crew of postal workers in our town that you ever did see. In our local post office, there's nary an even mildly disgruntled employee, ever, no matter how long the line is.)
Anyway, here they are--3 reasons I love Advent.
1: The Advent WreathI love that Advent is filled with family traditions, like the lighting of the candles on our Advent wreath every Sunday.
Our oversized wreath has tall 7-day candles that stay lit throughout the week, until it's time to light another one the following Sunday. We have back-up candles ready to replace the burned-out ones, until eventually we have all four lit up at the same time. This wreath was a DIY project that my husband and I worked on together in preparing for the 1999 Christmas season; he cut a large, donut-shaped wooden frame in his workshop, and I painted it green and glued on the faux pine boughs and other embellishments. I found the Baby Jesus doll that rests in the center some years later in one of our all-time favorite Catholic gift catalogs, Leafet Missal.
Mother of Our Savior Catholic Goods are like the ones they use at church, and they are very safe. I got used to the idea of keeping them lit 24/7 pretty much immediately, and I've always loved walking by the living room any time of the day or night and seeing the soft glow of those candles.
We start our yearly Advent Wreath Ceremony by reciting the following prayer:
O God, by whose word all things are sanctified, pour forth by blessing upon this wreath and grant that we who use it may prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ and may receive from Thee abundant graces. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
On the first Sunday, my husband (or one of our sons) lights the first candle, and we pray:
O Lord, stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, and come, that by Thy protection we may deserve to be rescued from the threatening dangers of our sins and saved by Thy deliverance. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Then each successive Sunday, we light a new candle and say another special prayer, until all four candles are burning round the clock.
There wasn't an Advent Wreath in our home when I was growing up, at least that I can remember, and this is a tradition we started with our boys that is very special to us.
2: Nativity SetsThe same year we made that huge Advent wreath, we invested in a huge (church-sized) Nativity set, with figures made of painted plaster. We decided that as far as the Advent wreath and the Nativity set--those important reminders of the real reason for the season--were concerned, we were going to go big or go home.
I absolutely love Nativity sets. My family had a very simple little one growing up, with a small cardboard stable and poorly painted plaster figurines; but I remember sitting and staring at it in wonder when I was a little girl. My mother always had Baby Jesus and the 3 kings in place from the start, and that's how we set ours up as well. I think the idea of waiting to put the Christ Child in the manger until Christmas morning is wonderful, as is waiting until Epiphany to add the kings; but I just can't seem to do it that way, because I like to see the whole story being told at once. That was the tradition in my husband's house as well, so that's the way we do it.
We bought the 19-piece set of plaster figurines first, the tallest of which is about 18". After a couple of years went by, my husband fashioned a large stable out of scrap wood we had in our basement, I stained and varnished it, and our Nativity set was complete.
My boys know how much I love Nativities. A couple of years ago, sons #3 and #4 pitched in to get me this incredible Willow Tree set as a Christmas gift. (It's a big one--St. Joseph is about 15" tall.) It's so lovely that I keep it out all year long.
I have other sets, too. Like this small set my mom gave me one year, one that was made in Mexico.
Apparently, I cannot have enough Nativity sets!
3: Joyful AnticipationThis really IS "the most wonderful time of the year," as the song says. There is so much happiness to anticipate, and it's truly not about the gifts. It's about celebrating the coming of God's Beloved Son, who was sent as a Savior for the whole world. It's about anticipating that glorious birth, because without Christmas, where would we be?
For my husband and me, it's also anticipating the joy of being together as a family again.
Our Advents used to be filled with little boys in white oxford button-downs and gray slacks (that beloved Catholic school uniform--not!), counting down the days in anticipation of school break and Santa Claus. Nowadays, it's Mom and Dad who are counting down the days until college breaks and work vacations, anxious to see those grown-up boys (and now their girls!) who are traveling back home for the holidays...it's Mom and Dad who are filled with the anticipation of the season. And because of that, this will always be my very favorite time of year.
|From the Christmas 2012 photo shoot. (Preciosa, now our daughter-in-law, was the photographer here.)|