In praise of advent

I wanted to bring you a little advent project and share with you why advent is so important to me.  So in this season of business, of sparkle, of mince pie making, present wrapping, card writing and nativity costume making may I invite you to make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a moment of quiet and reflection with me.

Advent seems to be  forgotten season/tradition the first of December arrives and its up with the decorations, out with the Christmas jumpers and boom Christmas is here. As a Christian advent is one of my favourite seasons, the waiting, the anticipation, the savouring, the preparation. I enjoy all these things … dare I say it…more than he big day itself. I hope what I write doesn’t sound like a sermon, that’s not my intention.  I simply wish to share a few of he things that help us as a family to savour this precious season each year. I do an advent calendar for my children. We have one of those cloth advent calendars with the pockets.  I do include the occasional sweet treat but I’ve always tried to make it a little more meaningful too.  One year we had a calendar of random acts of kindness I included thing like donating toys to charity, writing a letter to a friend, holding a door open for someone and we had a lot of fun doing it. In fact my children got quite competitive about who could complete their act first, or be most generous.  When my girls were very young they had a snippet of the Christmas story and a wooden nativity piece to add to the stable each day. In other years we’ve had  bible verse or Christmas activity each day  We’ve had a lot of fun and I have found these traditions bring meaning, joy and anticipation to the season of advent.  This year however, Granny showed up with a chocolate Frozen themed advent calendar and a Thomas the tank engine one for my son – I was frankly horrified. My children where amazed such things existed (7 years I’ve kept it a secret that other children get chocolate for breakfast during December)  and of course absolutely ecstatic. Once I reigned in my slightly over the top reaction to the chocolate advent calendars & accepted that my beautiful cloth advent calendar would just have to stay in the loft this year I set about trying to think of a simple way to  capture the true meaning of advent in our home this December.

My plans (and this post) were delayed when I spent most of the first week of December in hospital with my son, Beau who had just turned 2 and has Asthma.  That first night in hospital my son was absolutely buzzing with all the medication he had needed and at 8pm (way past his usual bedtime) I was feeling tired and emotional after what had been a difficult and long day. I’d read him every book in that place. Feeling unable to face yet ANOTHER tale of Apple Tree Farm or round of Dig, Dig Digging I got out the Gideon’s bible that the Gideon society place by every hospital bed. I began reading  the story of the birth of Jesus from Mathews gospel. I got no further than 5 versus in and Beau was asleep, at that moment it felt like a miracle – definitely an act of God, I was so relieved. I continued reading and took in all that wondrous story with a very grateful heart. So familiar is that story and yet I so rarely find the time to stop and read it in the busyness of December the words seemed new to me.  They stayed with me that week. My son now asleep I tired to make myself as comfortable as possible (not easy in a hospital) I watched Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas (I love that program) and flicked through a Christmas copy of Country living magazine – oh comfort and joy! Stuck in hospital away from all the distractions of home although not where I wished to be actually gave me a unique opportunity to just be.  To savour and slow down. Both the magazine and the television program full of beautiful images and lovely ideas for Christmas reminded me of the words from the Christmas song “Joy to the world”

“Let every heart prepare him room

And Heaven and nature sing…”

 Over the following few days as we left hospital and we continued to nurse my son back to health and make sense of that strange other worldly experience that is staying in hospital. Gradually an idea for making advent meaningful for all in our home came to me. It is wonderfully simple (well it needed to be with a very poorly tot to care for), not in any way original or new but it has given us pause for reflection this year.

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4 candles, some black paper and chalk, some raffia string, foraged foliage and some clementine’s and apples I sliced and baked in a very low oven for a few hours. I created this advent centre piece for our dining table.

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We have marked the Sundays of advent (Peace, Hope, Joy and Love) we have lit our candles at our evening meal every day and included a simple prayer on the theme in our usual mealtime grace. Next Sunday when we light the final candle we will put our decorations up.  AND eat gingerbread and Christmas will really be here but only once we have reflected on the meaning of Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

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