And the much-awaited final installment of Advent ideas from me and Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence:
7. Wait to Open Presents
This is difficult, especially if your family has regularly exchanged gifts before Christmas, but by waiting for Christmas (or even the 11 days afterwards) you can truly experience what it means to wait. If you receive a gift from someone, politely say, “Thank you! I will wait until Christmas to open this, if that’s OK.” By waiting to open gifts, you can focus on the meaning of Advent and wait for Christmas to enjoy the symbolic meaning of gift-giving and receiving.
8. Knead, Shape, and Wait
Get up early one morning to make homemade yeast bread. As you wait for the dough to rise, quietly contemplate what it might have been like for those who were waiting for the Messiah to be born. Consider what it means for you to wait and watch for Christ’s Second Coming. (If you have kids, invite them to help you make cinnamon rolls with the yeast dough.)
9. Make the Common Uncommon
Transform plain, old tin cans into beautiful outdoor luminaries with your spouse or older children. First remove the label and wash any size tin can. Fill the can with water, leaving about ½ an inch at the top, then put the can in the freezer overnight. The next day, draw an Advent-themed design on a piece of paper, such as a star or an angel. Tape the paper to the can of frozen water, then use a hammer and nail to transfer the design to the can by pounding small holes into the tin. When the ice melts, you will have a lovely recycled can luminary! Place a lit candle inside each one and set them on your front door step at night. Use this project to think about the redemptive wonder of the incarnation-the Light of the universe, carried as a babe in the womb of a common girl.
10. Pray, Ponder, and be Poetic
Purchase a blank journal that you can use every Advent. Each day, write a prayer or poem that explores important Advent themes like darkness, waiting, hope, and light. Bring your journal out each Advent season; spend time each year reading the reflections already recorded there.
(Kelli) I’ve got wonderful childhood memories of gathering with my family around an Advent wreath, lighting candles, and reading from the Bible together. But somehow, once I was out of the house and on my own, those Advent traditions faded from view. Like many of you, my Decembers quickly filled with parties, buying, decorating, and lots of good intentions to focus on the meaning of the season-intentions that always get crowded out by jingling bells, gift receipts, and wrapping paper.
A few years ago I decided to start observing Advent simply…really simply. I didn’t change much of my routine-I just began daily singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” And I kicked my latest favorite novel off the nightstand to readWaiting for Jesus (an Advent devotional) by Walter Wangerin Jr. instead. Day by day my heart’s focus was transformed. My spirit began to long for Jesus and my feelings of anticipation for Christmas morning grew and grew. On December 25th that year, I was able to celebrate Jesus’ birth-Emmanuel’s coming-with a deep, fulfilling joy. And I determined to never let Advent slip by unnoticed again.
Our Advent family traditions seem to morph year to year. Once I attempted homemade pies for each Sunday evening (I’ll spare you the laughable details). Another time we had nightly puppet shows with our kids, using stuffed animals (memorably including a hyper-annoying musical turtle) to play the roles of Bible characters. This year we’ll also decorate a Jesse tree.
The point here isn’t to replace pre-Christmas chaos with the stress and frenzy of 10 elaborate Advent observances. Instead, you can choose your own Advent adventure by picking one or two things you’ll do to infuse the four weeks before Christmas with meaningful observances, lasting family traditions, and most importantly, growing intimacy with God.
Try a new to-do list this December. How about…
1. Slow down and breathe
2. Wait for Jesus with eager anticipation
3. Truly celebrate Christmas and what it means…when it comes!
(copyright 2007 Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence & Kelli B. Trujillo)