Last Advent, I was inspired by the words of Sister Melannie Svoboda. She writes “…what we’re really celebrating during Advent: [is] the slow and beautiful coming of the Son of God into our world, into our time, and into our lives.” The prophets waited for Jesus’ birth for centuries — we are called to take just 4 weeks to remember the waiting, prepare for his arrival and slowly breathe in our days. Over the years, we have generally kept things simple during Advent and Christmas, but this year I wanted to plan and feel prepared as we entered the season.
So, in the spirit of “slow and simple” (and fully embracing Advent), here are a few ways we plan to celebrate and some of the resources we’ll use:
As a family, we will be reading through Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift and hanging up Jesse Tree ornaments each day. We’ll also have an Advent calendar that will include simple daily activities (making bread for neighbors, making and wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards, eating snowman pancakes, etc.). I referenced Let us Keep the Feast, edited by Jessica Snell, Faithful Families by Traci Smith, The Lifegiving Table and The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson, as I planned our days.
For my own studies, I’ll be reading through Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift as well as Paula D’Arcy’s Daybreaks: Daily reflections of Advent and Christmas. I’ll also be using The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime to guide my own prayer and meditation.
We’ll be enjoying stacks and stacks of picture books as well! A few of our favorites are: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story by Sally Lloyd Jones, Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, and Christmas in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (adapted from Little House in the Big Woods). We use Sarah Mackenzie’s guide, Our Favorite December Picture Books, — she has lists of picture books for each month, and we always love her selections. I would also recommend her podcast, The Read Aloud Revival, specifically episode #36: “Christmas and Advent Read Alouds with Elizabeth Foss.”
The kids and I love to listen to Elizabeth Mitchell’s The Sounding Joy. You do not want to miss this compilation of Christmas folk songs! We’ve already been enjoying the audio version of Letters From Father Christmas, by J.R.R. Tolkein, and we can’t wait to take advantage of the free trial that Sparkle Stories is offering. Audiobooks and podcasts are a great way to keep screens off, and they’re lifesavers on holiday road trips.
In our family, we love acknowledging the change in seasons, and we like to do something small to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Taking a cue from Night Tree by Eve Bunting, we plan to decorate an outdoor “edible tree” for the animals (like this activity mentioned on Wilder Child).
We plan to begin our Advent season by planting an amaryllis bulb, carefully watering it and tending to it each day in hopes that it will be flowering by Christmas. I hope this will be a beautiful practice in watching and waiting. I found this idea and others on this post from Rachel Held Evans. Sarah Bessey and Tsh Oxenreider also have great resources and offerings that will inspire your Advent.
This can feel like a lot, but most of it is happening in our home. Which means — we won’t make it to every party, light show and activity that comes across our path this year. We’ll have to say “no” to some things in order to say “yes” to these more meaningful activities.
For these days of Advent I will slow down, not speed up. I will take more care with people, not less. I will be aware of my own personhood. What am I creating with this life I’ve been given? — Paula D’Arcy