Jesse Trees! Advent Wreaths! And St. Nicholas Treats! Oh my!
Advent is coming soon, and, I don’t know about you, but this year, it has been really hard to wrap my head around preparing for that busy season when things are already so intense and full of uncertainty. I'm doing well to know what's happening today in my house!
Every year, I sit down and pray about what my family needs most to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. I make notes and explore resources (so many lovely resources!) to base our Advent plans on readying our hearts for the Incarnation.
I carefully choose materials and traditions that will keep our focus on Christ, and this year, I feel that priority is higher than ever. Living through a pandemic should make us reflect on death. This year should help us to remember that we "know neither the day nor the hour" (Matthew 25:13) that we will face the Lord on our final day.
But, living Advent should NOT mean MORE stress! Each tradition and activity we choose should be done intentionally to bring peace. If your Advent to do list seems too long, let's pause, back up, and reflect on why we are doing these Advent things for our families in the first place!
Why to "Do" Advent
The term “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus which means “coming,” and it focuses not only on the past coming of Jesus on the first Christmas; but also on the present coming of Jesus in the gospels, the sacraments, other people, prayer, love, truth, and personal experience; and the future coming of Jesus at the Second or Final Coming at the end of the world, the Parousia or the Last Judgment. (https://www.archspm.org/faith-and-discipleship/catholic-faith/what-is-advent-and-why-is-it-very-important-to-us-as-catholics/)
The Church in Her Wisdom gives us this opportunity every year to prepare ourselves, to prepare our families, so that we might be more worthy of Heaven. Advent is a gift to us, and we should make it a time set apart, special and unique, so our children (and we) grow in love of Christ and holiness.
But what to do? There are so many beautiful Advent activities! They are all good! Maybe you've made a list, but you're still thinking: How can I possibly cram those into my already busy days full of laundry and cooking and homeschooling?
The Key to Advent Peace
Advent can be a magical time for our children. As homeschoolers, we have a unique opportunity to include more seasonal traditions than the average family. But here's the Advent secret seasoned mamas will tell you --- adding something for Advent usually means we have to take something else away!
We can’t do it all. For every special activity we add, we must cross out something else on our daily list. Adding a daily Jesse Tree reading? Cross off spelling for a few weeks. Planning an Advent Wreath with prayers? Replace other bedtime prayers on those days. Purchasing St. Nicholas Treats? Delay decorating the tree until after that day.
Many homeschooling families actually do very little of their usual schoolwork between Thanksgiving and Epiphany. Some families even take the entire season off from their typical curriculum. We often continue only math and reduce or cut out everything else. That is how we make room for picture books and read alouds, hymns and Scripture, crafts and baking!
So sometime in the next 3-4 days, look back at your lists and see what you can cross off. Most of us, especially overachieving homeschoolers, tend to plan too much. This year, of all years, give yourself a break, and let a few things go, mama.
Because Advent is supposed to be a season of peace before the celebration of Christmas. And even if the world around us is all busy chaos, our hearts must somehow find the calm of that first Christmas if we are to grow closer to Christ and be ready for His Coming!
What special things will you be doing this Advent AND what will you NOT do in order to make space for that in your days?