Getting ready for Christmas can be fun. The crisp air is a sign that the holidays are right around the corner. Thanksgiving is usually when people start putting up their Christmas decorations and trees. But in our Catholic faith, there is something about living the present moment, that makes this time even more exciting than starting Christmas a month too early.
You see, Christmas does not begin until, Christmas eve. So, we are asked to prepare for it for four weeks. We prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of Christ. It's that simple. This helps to place every thing into perspective. Although I love Christmas decorations, music and all that comes with the season, I do like to celebrate when it's time to celebrate it. We anticipate so many things these days that we forget to live the present moment.
Advent is just that. It's a time and season to prepare for the season of Christmas, which by the way is not just one day. Christmas is celebrated, in the Catholic Church, from the vigil of the 25th of December all the way until the Baptism of the Lord, which in the U.S. falls on January 6th. So imagine how wonderful? If you wait, you get to enjoy the real time of Christmas, for that much longer.
Here is a post from my old blog that I posted about three Christmas' ago. Enjoy:
For those of you not familiar with Advent, it is a time of preparation. It begins four Sundays before Christmas and means advenire which is "to come to," in Latin. For Christians it is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ in His birth at Christmas, but also symbolizes Christ's Second Coming at the end of time.
Today's day in age we live for instant gratification. I am the first to fall into this trap with the help of Amazon, internet, Facebook, texting etc. Advent, is a reminder that "the best things come to those who wait". Literally! We wait for Jesus.
As a family we have decided that Christmas would be all about, well, what it is: Jesus! Yes, the gifts are nice; the tree, the stockings, the Christmas cards. All that is wonderful. Not bad in itself, but when we make that our focus (again, I fall into this) it is certainly not good.
Really, if we think about it, if it weren't for Jesus, there would be none of what we make Christmas all about. So, here is one family tradition we are working on year after year. As the children get older, they appreciate it more and can participate in all that the season of Advent brings.
We decided to get into the "Spirit" by following some beautiful Catholic traditions. One you may know already, it is the Advent wreath. The Advent wreath (circle) is used to symbolize God the Father and eternal life. It holds four candles which are lit over the four weeks of Advent. There are three violet (purple) candles and one rose (pink) candle, each representing 1,000 years a total of 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Savior.
|The progressive lighting of the candles symbolizes the expectation and hope of our Lord’s first coming into the world and the anticipation of His second coming to judge the living and the dead.|
- The 3 violet candles symbolize the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and goods works undertaken during Advent.
- The 1 rose candle is lit on the third Sunday which is known as "Gaudete Sunday" it is the Sunday of rejoicing, because it is the midpoint of Advent and it's close to Christmas.
But another tradition you are probably not familiar with, that we've been doing for a couple of years now, is the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree dates back to the middle ages and came from Europe. You may even find a Jesse Tree design in stained glass windows in old cathedrals.
The Jesse Tree come from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. The Jesse Tree is decorated with handmade ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse Tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.
One way I (we) can learn that instant gratification is not normal and is actually not good for us, especially children, is to spend Advent preparing for the coming of Christ.
Here are some of the ornaments I have made out of felt. You can have your children make them out of paper or you can make them out of just about anything.
Day 1: Symbolizes the World Created by God– Globe – Genesis 1:24-28
Day 2: Symbolizes the First sin by Adam and Eve – Snake and Apple– Genesis 3:1-24
Day 3: Symbolizes the promise of God to Noah after the Flood – Rainbow & Ark – Genesis 6:11-22; 86-12; 9:11-17
Day 4: Symbolizes the promise of God to Abraham – Camel & Tent– Genesis 12:1-7:13:2-18; 18:1
Day 5: Symbolizes the Ram sacrificed instead of Isaac – Ram – Genesis 22:1-14
Day 6: Symbolizes Jacob – Ladder – Genesis 27:41-28:22
Day 7: symbolizes Joseph – Multicolored Coat – Genesis 37:1-36
Day 8: symbolizes Moses – two tablets --Deuteronomy 5:1-22
The great thing is you learn so much! You learn how all these events and Biblical figures foreshadowed Jesus & led to His birth. It makes the time leading up to Christmas all about what it should be. You read the appropriate Bible verse each night and the child(ren) places the specific ornament on the tree.
This tradition does not interfere with a Christmas tree, as it is not a Christmas tree in and of itself. There are literally hundreds of way to do this. I have seen some creative things on-line. There are also tons of recourse books...Catholic and non-Catholic alike as this is not strictly a Catholic thing.
I used this one:
The remaining days are as follows but there are dozens of variations on symbols and passages.
Day 9: Symbolizes the promise land-Numbers - Grapes - Numbers 13:1-2, 17-18, 20, 23, 27
Day 10: Symbolizes Ruth - Sheaf of wheat - Ruth 1:15-2:3
Day 11: Symbolizes Miriam – Tambourine – Exodus 15:19-21
Day 12: SymbolizesSamuel – Lamp – 1 Samuel 3:1-21
Day 13: Symbolizes Jesse – Branch – Isaiah 11:1
Day 14: Symbolizes King David – Harp – 1 Samuel 16:14-23
Day 15: Symbolizes King Solomon – Crown – 1 Kings 3:3-28
Day 16: Symbolizes Isaiah – Throne – Isaiah 6:1-8
Day 17: Symbolizes Jeremiah -Heart - Jeremiah 31:31-33, Hebrews 9:13-15
Day 18: Symbolizes the Angels – Angel – Hebrews 1:1-14
Day 19: Symbolizes Malachi – Trumpet – Malachi 3:1-4
Day 20: Symbolizes Zechariah and Elizabeth – man and wife - Luke 1:39-45
Day 21: Symbolizes Mary – Mary– Luke 1:29-35
Day 22: Symbolizes John the Baptist – River – Matthew 3:1-6
Day 23: Symbolizes Joseph of Nazareth – Hammer/Saw – Matthew 1:18-25
Day 24: Symbolizes Bethlehem – Star over town– Matthew 2:1-12
Day 25: Birth of Christ – Crib – Luke 2:1-7
A happy and blessed Advent to you all. May this time teach each one of us that the best things in life take time and are worth much more than we can imagine.