or why I am grateful we have a season of Advent before we celebrate Christmas

On Sunday we will unpack our Advent wreath. Gemma-Rose will insert four candles into the wreath: three purple candles and a single rose coloured one. Advent will have begun.

Even though Advent hasn't quite arrived and Christmas is weeks away, shops are already decorated with bells and tinsel and fairy lights. On Saturday Santa will lower his ample body onto his huge chair in the mall, ready to be photographed with unsure and possibly crying children. Everyone is busy shopping to the accompaniment of Christmas carols and 'Christmas' songs. And they are planning pre-Christmas parties. They are getting into the Christmas spirit (and will soon be getting a bit stressed out too). 

With all this going on, it can sometimes be hard to remember that Advent isn't really a time for celebrating. It is a season of penance, a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus… as we remember His birth, as we yearn for His second coming, as we invite Him to come into our hearts.

Even though our family will try to keep Advent and Christmas separate, focusing on preparation first and leaving celebrations for later, there will still be so much to enjoy over the next few weeks.

We’ll set up our nativity scene on the family altar. Mary and Joseph will be waiting for Jesus to arrive. The floor of the stable will at first be bare. By the end of Advent it should be awash with pieces of straw earned by our little sacrifices. We will enjoy making these secret sacrifices, trying to make sure we add a piece of straw when no one is looking. 

*On Sunday the Three Wise Men or Kings will set out on their journey to Bethlehem, resting each night in a different spot in our house. They will choose secret out-of-the-way places. Who will be the first to discover the Kings' new resting place each morning?

Our Advent wreath will take centre stage on our kitchen table for the next few weeks. Each evening we’ll light the right number of candles and say a special prayer. We’ll sing a verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel before saying grace.

And then there's the Jesse tree. After we have finished eating our dinner, my husband Andy will take the Bible and read an appropriate few verses to match the day’s Jesse tree ornament. The girls will take turns putting the ornaments on the tree.

Like most people, we will shop and wrap gifts and smile quietly as we think of the delight those gifts are going to bring on Christmas day. We’ll probably make some presents too. And on St Nicholas’Day we will get a tiny taste of Christmas. A small gift or chocolate will appear in waiting shoes.

We’ll try to reserve Christmas carols until the Christmas season, listening to Advent ones instead. But with family choir members practising for Midnight Mass, it is inevitable all those familiar tunes will be on our lips. 

During Advent we will pray and read meditations together. We will read books such as Geraldine Mccaughrean’s The Jesse Tree and old favourites like Tomie de Paola's books. Every year I always try to add a couple of new books to our collection.

We’ll cook and store away such goodies as mince pies and cakes and biscuits in the deep freeze. We'll resist the temptation to taste test them all!

We might do something special for the feast days of Our Lady that fall during Advent. But we won’t be celebrating all the feast days. I used to feel guilty about this. Perhaps if I were just a little more organised… And then I realised it's not essential to do every possible craft and observe all the traditions. 

So we pick and choose our traditions, ones that we enjoy and look forward to, and that help us focus on the season, ones that are usually simple and stress-free.

But whatever we do, there is one thing we can be sure of: All through Advent we will whisper over and over again Come Lord Jesus Come!

Our Christmas tree won’t make an appearance until the weekend before Christmas. Maybe, even when it has been placed in the corner of the family room, it will remain bare for just a day or two as we anticipate sorting through the boxes of decorations and dressing it in its Christmas finery. Then we will decorate our home too.

And before we know it, it will be Christmas Eve. The season of penance will be over. It will be time to celebrate. 

The secular world’s Christmas might end as soon as the wrappings have been torn off the presents, and the huge Christmas dinner has been eaten. Other people might extend Christmas to 12 days But we will celebrate right up until the Baptism of Our Lord. The lights on our tree will still be shining long after other people's decorations have been packed away.

Yes, we will be enjoying the Christmas season for many, many days. We really do not need to turn Advent into Christmas. Advent is Advent and Christmas is Christmas. Both are necessary.

I smile as I think of Sunday...  the first day of Advent.... Come Lord Jesus Come!

* I think it would make more sense for the Three Kings to set out on their journey around our house on Christmas day, as Beate has described in her comment. But we have been doing this tradition the 'wrong' way for so long, I know everyone will protest if we change. I don't suppose it really matters.

I wonder what you've got planned for Advent. If you'd like to read about some more Advent ideas perhaps you could hop over to Pam's blog Everyday Snapshots. She's having an Advent link up in her combox.

I have written a number of Advent and Christmas posts over the past few years. Rather than repeat all these stories as another Advent begins, I have put together a photo gallery of posts. I invite you to share my stories. Some are about Advent and Christmas traditions. Some touch on grief as I remember how impossible it seemed to celebrate Christmas while I carried a broken heart within me. There’s some crafty creative posts, all simple stuff because that’s all I do! And there’s a couple of lighter funny posts, because Christmas should be a time for smiles.

Perhaps you'd like to dip into my Advent and Christmas collection. I hope so!

The Candle Game

The Journey of the Three Wise Men


Empty Shoes

A Home-Made Christmas Part 1

A Home-Made Christmas Part 2

A Home-Made Christmas (Card) Part 3

A Home-Made Christmas (Decoration) Part 4

A Home-Made Christmas Part 5

Our Christmas Pudding Collection

My Perfect Christmas Present Secret

Love All Wrapped Up in a Gift

Christmas: The Season for the Broken-Hearted

If Only…

The Sacrifice of Christmas Shopping

Thomas’ Gifts

A Doctor’s Waiting Room Education

Grief and an Advent Wreath

Gazing Like a Little Child

Memories of Magi

Post a Comment

  1. Happy Thanksgiving from across the pond ;-) We also say "Come Lord Jesus!" during Advent, and the response we wait for is "Come quickly!" It sometimes will serve as a great reminder during a time that can be stressful ;-) We'll do a Mary and Joseph star walk this Advent (haven't done it in a very long time.) Mary and Joseph journey towards the creche on a blue covered background. Each day a star along with a bit of scenery is added.

    Our wise men begin their journey on Christmas, when they see the star. There are times when I think it would be helpful to celebrate Christmas one year and Epiphany the next ;-) The magi will arrive at a little house where Mary is holding the toddler Jesus on her lap...

    We still need to dip our candles for Sunday and dig out the purple cloth for the prayer table.

    1. Beate,

      It is so lovely to catch up with you! My younger girls are actually busy writing to your girls. Expect some mail very soon!

      Oh I like your response to Come Lord Jesus! I'd never heard of that before. And I like your creche traditions too.

      I think it makes more sense for the magi to set out for Bethlehem on Christmas day when the star appears. The only problem is we've been doing things the 'wrong' way for so long, it's become our own tradition! Our Kings have an extra long journey. They travel all over the house from the first Sunday of Advent until Epiphany.

      You dip your own candles? I'm so impressed!

    2. Oh don't be too impressed - they mostly resemble some sort of gentetically modified disaster of a carrot ;-) But we have fun doing it =) I love your wise men - they are adorable and it's a lovely tradition!

    3. Beate,

      genetically modified disaster of a carrot? Oh that makes me smile. Yes, things don't have to be perfect, as long as they are made with love.

      Felicity and I made our nativity set 18 years ago, while our baby (Imogen) was having her afternoon nap. Luckily Imogen slept for a long time because it took us quite some time to make these fiddly little figures. They are only made out of cornflake boxes and pieces of felt but we all love them very much.

    4. Now you will really get to laugh, because we ended up not dipping candles at all ;-) Oh well, after having 27 people for Thanksgiving and knowing we'll travel next week, it's okay to buy candles. We're keeping Advent simple with "Mary's Star Walk." As for the O'Antiphons, one year I made them out of window paint - truly lovely - but we never could get them off the windows and there they are to this day ;-) It somehow does take a bit away from them to have them up year round! Wow - you've had your nativity figures for a long time!! I'm impressed with everyone's care and gentleness at your house :-)

    5. Beate,

      Sometimes things don't work out as planned. Sounds like you had more important things to do than dip candles. I like simple very much. Then there's lots of quiet time for prayer.

      If you ever move house, you will leave behind something on your windows for the new owners to ponder!

      Our nativity set has been wonderful. It's unbreakable, perfect for little hands. The glue holding them together must be very strong!

      I hope you had a blessed first Sunday of Advent.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Wonderfully said!

    1. Cassie,

      Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my post. I am glad I finally wrote a post and joined in with Pam's link-up. Good to share ideas!

  3. I couldn't agree more. I too am trying to keep Christ in Christmas and Christmas out of Advent. We're also having a Jesse tree and an advent wreath. This year I have decided to do something with the O-antiphons. I'm going to blog about advent wreath and O Antiphons and Christmas tree indoors until December 6th, but not about the Jesse tree, as I have a mind of putting it into a book, as it is unknown in Denmark. Our magi also begin their journey to arrive in time for their feast day.
    Hoping you'll write new advent posts anyway.

    1. Uglemor,

      O-antiphons? Oh yes! Aren't the O-antiphons contained in the verses of the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel, or have I got that in a muddle. I will have to do some research! I will watch out for your post about them.

      You must tell me more about the book you're writing! I wonder if you are thinking about publishing your translations of various poems. You have such great language skills.

      A couple of Advent and Christmas ideas have occurred to me so maybe I will write some more posts after all... if there's time! So lovely of you to want to share more of my stories. This reminds me I haven't finished editing my Angel stories. I won't get to Advent after all by Sunday. But I will hunt out the Advent story from my first collection of Angels stories. I might post that instead.

      God bless!

    2. You're right about O Come, O Come Emmanuel being a versification of the O antiphons. I had to look up that hymn. It is very good. A similar, but not as popular hymn exist in Danish. I have many ideas for books, I'd like to publish, the 10 Marian hymns being one of those (the Droplets and Jesse Tree and a missal for children being some of the other). But as I'm easily distracted, I never finish anything - no, not never, that's unfair. But later than I or anybody else would like.
      And it's sad that your Angel stories won't be there for Advent, but I look forwards to reading them in their own good time. Better they be good and late than half-baked.

    3. Uglemor,

      Wow! All those interesting sounding books you are working on! I understand about getting distracted. I think that's what happened to me recently. I seem to have lost my momentum with the editing of the Angels stories. but I will get back to them. Yes, good is much better than half-baked!

  4. Lovely, Sue!!! Are you signing up for the CBN Keep Christ in Christmas? So many would enjoy and benefit from this! ( and I'm sure from past posts as well!!)

    You technically post on Dec 2 for the CBN link up, but this is only a few days early! If you had planned on participating, think about it! I'd love it if you joined it and I know many others would too!
    I have a google doc reg form on my blog, but Monica is in charge, so she gets all the info sent to her....sorry, if you did reg, but I can't see the forms when they're submitted...our hard working friend Monica does.
    Here is the post. I believe that you can sign up today 11/29, as the last possible day!


    Love it love it...thank you!!

    Will "see" you soon!!

    Have a lovely Friday and a wonderful weekend and beginning of advent!

    1. Chris,

      Thank you so much for the invitation to join you in the CBN link-up. I don't know how I missed reading about it! Anyway, all signed up and ready to read and comment and enjoy lots of Advent posts!

      God bless!

  5. Mrs Elvis,
    I love your nativity! It is amazing:)
    I am Hannah from Hannah Island girl. I have recently made myself a new blog which I post on! Here is the link:http://margos-diary.blogspot.com.au/, I hope you visit!

    1. Hannah,

      It's so lovely to see you visiting my blog again. Of course I will visit your new blog. But what shall I call you, Hannah or Margo? I love creating blogs. It sounds like you are having fun doing this too!

    2. Thanks! I was a bit busy:)
      What did you think of my blog? I added a new post today about some sites my mum found!
      You can keep calling me Hannah if you want:)

    3. Hannah,

      I love your blog! I can see you like Despicable Me!! I do too. Do you like the first movie best or the second? I thought Despicable Me 1 was better than D M 2. I'll be over later to read your new post.

    4. Despicable Me 1 was much better than the second, though the other one was cool!


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