Waiting for What?

Are we there yet? How much longer? I have to go to the bathroom! When will we get there?!

Car trips are one surefire way to build up a sense of anticipation in little kids. But it eventually seems to become anticipation gone very wrong. It isn’t that excited, tingly type of anticipation — it’s a boring, dragging on, get-me-out-of-here type of waiting. A desperate wondering “When is this torture going to end?”

Sadly, that’s the same sort of anticipation I end up feeling some days during the Advent season. Why? Because I’m bombarded everywhere I go with a pithy, superficial, secularized Christmas message. I don’t have anything against trees, Santa, elves, or holly, but my irritation reached a peak this past Saturday when I spent hours in a mall downtown and didn’t see one single recognition that Christmas is about Jesus’ birth. I couldn’t even find a Nativity scene!

As I left the mall, I wondered “When will all this annoying superficial Christmas hype be over?!?!?!” And it isn’t even December yet!

Ever felt that way?

What are we really waiting for during Advent? For Santa and gifts? For big sales? For the credit card bill? For the cultural Christmas hype to end? Or for something else? How can we help our children to wait in the right way and for the right things?

In our family we’re strivng hard to foster fun traditions built into the four Sundays of Advent. It’s a cocoon of sacredness — our very own delightful way of waiting for Jesus. On Advent Sundays we eat dinner with the lights off, with only the glow of candles from the Advent wreath lighting our faces. It reminds us that we live in darkness as we wait for the Light of the World to be born. We make and eat homemade pies on those Sunday nights too — the smells, sounds, and tastes of delicious food make family traditions so much more memorable! We give small gifts to the children each Sunday night–objects that symbolically help us remember and talk about the coming birth of Christ. And in the evenings we grown ups read through Walter Wangerin Jr.’s Preparing for Jesus — a fabulous journey through the biblical account of Christ’s birth.

What are you waiting for this Advent season? What are your children waiting for? What fun and creative ways can you build a Jesus-focused anticipation into your family’s traditions? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.

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