Advent and Christmas was always a special time growing up as a Christian kid in the Middle East. The anticipation and the expectation of the birth of Jesus, nostalgic Christmas carols, well wishes and season greetings everywhere, gorgeous middle eastern “winter” weather, midnight church service on Christmas eve, smells of cinnamon and baked treats and of course, the family dinner at my parent’s house.
After having kids, I was introduced to many advent “traditions” through other Christian families in our church and I was keen to start a few of them with my own young family. Over the past couple of years, I have done an advent devotional with them, counted down the days using a simple advent calendar, done lots of Christmas and winter arts and crafts and have been mindful to include simple events, outings and other activities too.
This year, however, I felt the need to simplify.
Having lots to do and places to go to is wonderful but it can easily take over your time and start to feel like an added burden. Another thing to organise and check off.
And worse, it can steal your joy.
We had just completed a busy term at our new Classical Conversations community and were heading into a glorious 4-week break. So, I was conscious that in addition to doing some Advent activities, I wanted to make sure that I planned some well-deserved rest for all of us.
So, I decided to do lots of restful reading. I envisioned many evenings cosying up on our living room sofa with my four children reading Christmas picture books. Oh, the memories we would make! I liked the idea of wrapping up Christmas books as presents to be kept under a tree and getting the kids to unwrap one book a day. In reality, however, I managed to get a couple of Christmas books from the library, but I had absolutely no time to wrap them. Life is chaotic as it is and the thought of wrapping up library books only to be returned in two weeks seemed to be nonsensical, so I quickly dropped that idea! My vision of a cosy evening on the sofa was replaced by frenzied shouts to get everyone together on the sofa for reading time. One complained about all the reading, the baby cried and needed to be bounced up and down on my knee – it was hardly a vision of a cosy evening.
I also planned to do some arts and crafts with the children. There are many fabulous ideas on the artfulparent.com website and I prepared for it by drawing up a small list of the ones that I thought my kids would like to do. I started saving Amazon cardboard boxes and other discards from the kitchen and I ordered a few supplies online as well. Most importantly, of course, I also primed up for these art and craft sessions mentally. The reality is that working with young children and items such as a glue gun, shaving cream, puffy paint and glitter requires a certain kind of mental dexterity and robustness.
You do not want to get into it without being prepared first!
We have been focusing on gratitude these past few weeks during Bible time. I have been encouraging the children to think of something they can be grateful for when it’s their time to pray. I think it is so easy to be indulgent this season, it is even expected somewhat.
Excessive food, gifts, sugar, noise, TV.
When do we get to focus on Jesus? I want to take the time to intentionally slow down, to do less and centre in on the birth of our Saviour. I confess this is hard for me to do. It’s easier to fill my time with activities. The reality is that I cannot plan a perfect Advent for my family: there are constant sibling arguments, we are messy and self-centred, short-tempered and greedy.
My heart is convicted, and I am reminded of what our Saviour said to two women many years ago:
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10: 41-42
What can I do to focus on choosing the Good Portion this Christmas?
How can I gently turn my kids away from the noise of the world to Jesus – the greatest gift?
The reality is that despite all our messes and shortcomings, the Saviour has come.
And amidst all the competing voices, I want to choose Him this Christmas.