Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent in our home

I've been spending a fair amount of time over the last several weeks looking at blogs of those I admire and trying to figure out what new traditions I'd really like to bring into the home during Advent. I've started small and every year add a little something else, but honestly, I usually end up feeling like I've missed the whole meaning of what the little something was supposed to do because I get too caught up in the details of the something.

This year, I've been reading Around the Year with the Trapp Family. I have had this book for a couple of years now and I always glean through it wishing I could "be more like Maria."

Something changed for me this time. It started really with All Hallow's Eve. I really desired to share the meaning of that day coupled with All Soul's Day. The more I read, the more I realized that I did not have to implement everything that Maria did with her family, but that I could certainly bring one or two ideas into our home and make it our own.

I decided I would make a liturgical notebook of sorts. I think I may have even read about doing this on my wonderful friend, Cindy's blog. She always has great ideas and since we tend to think alike, I can't remember if I had been milling that idea around in my own mind before I read about it or not... sorry about that tangent.

So with the beginning of the New Liturgical Year, I am going to place the things we love, the things that are traditional for our family into this binder. Eventually, perhaps, it may move to a more beautiful format, but as I said, I can get too caught up in the details and miss the whole idea. So, I am placing these lovely thoughts, traditions, etc, into the binder.

I read a post on Karen's blog today which brought me to this blog and this sweet lady's poem rang true for me. I commented on her blog, so you can read more of my thoughts there, but I decided to go ahead and mention exactly what we do for advent around here.

I was shocked at how much I am getting in. How much my kids are living the Liturgical year. I may not be Maria Trapp, but I am me and what we do here works for our family and is truly an expression of OUR faith.

Here's a list, not for you to compare with your life and make you question if you are doing enough, but more for my own sake to see it all in one place. This list is not in any special order.

1. Revised school schedule - We will continue with Math and Latin studies, as well as independent reading. Bean will also continue with her Chemistry studies as she really can't shelve that for a month. In the time that we would normally do more academic work, we will focus on preparation. Preparation of our hearts and souls, preparation of our home.

Each day after the basic school work is completed, each of us has an assigned task that will be carried out. For instance, tomorrow, Foo will work on getting rid of recycling materials that have yet to be crushed small enough to fit into the bin. The girls will spend time oiling the wooden furniture that drinks up the lemon oil.

During this time of preparation, we will meditate on the thought for the day from our Spiritual Crib.

By the time Christ comes, hopefully our hearts, minds, souls, and home will all be properly prepared to receive Him.

2. Spiritual Crib: This we try to do each morning, sometimes, I'll admit, we forget and have to play catch up the next day or even two days later. But the idea is to meditate upon a thought to help prepare the heart for the birth of Jesus.

I'll post the Spiritual Crib that we do in the comments section of this post.

3. The Advent Wreath: Each Sunday, we read the prayer for the week, light the candle and reflect for a few minutes each day on the readings for that day. This is usually done at dinner time, if possible.

New things we will be trying this year to see if they feel like us...

4. Advent Angels or ChristKindl: Each one of us pulls a name of another family member and secretly, throughout Advent offers up sacrifices, prayers, and performs good deeds for the person that they picked. This just seemed like something we can work on right now in our lives.

5. Saint study: Each person also picks a saint (mom has written some down for each person to draw from). Sometime during the Advent/Christmas season, each person will present their "Saint" to the entire family. This allows us to get to know a bit more about the Saints and possibly gives the children as well as the parents a special friend to call on during our daily living that we may not have thought about or known about before.

6. St Nicholas Study: I have always felt a call to learn more about St. Nicholas and integrate him into our Christmas so that we can move away from the secular Santa that all too often invades our home during this time of year. I have never really pushed Santa onto the kids, but I have never told them not to believe in him. In fact, when the children are older and start to question things, I simply tell them that in our home, we always believe in the spirit of giving and the spirit of St. Nicholas.

This year I plan to read aloud to the children, yes even Bean, about St. Nicholas. Then on Dec 6th, they might even find some golden coins in their shoes with a small little gift.

7. Less is more. Mark and I started scaling back on the huge amounts of gifts that we would give to the children a few years ago. We really felt that we wanted to be more centered on Christ, yet, it was impossible with crazy electronic noise-making, light-strobing, music-blaring, mornings taking over after a long Christmas Eve. Slowly, we have tried to bring the number of gifts to three. Each year we get closer to that number, but usually give in to the commercialism and get a few more than that.

This year, it is my hope that our children will appreciate their three gifts. One will be for their physical sense, one for their intellectual sense, and one for their spiritual sense. I love the challenge of trying to stay within these guidelines. And since my children, well most of them, can barely think of anything to put on their lists, the door is wide open as to what we can come up with for them.

This is another thing we have been doing for years that I had forgotten to write about. The Creche and adding straw to it. For each good deed that a child performs, they can put straw into the creche to make a comfortable place for the Christ child to lay His head. If mom or dad catch you doing something good, more straw can be added. By Christmas Eve, the bed is full of straw and after Mass and dinner at Mickey Miss's home, Lem will bring Baby Jesus out from His hiding place and be placed into His creche. (Technically it is usually way past midnight, so He arrives officially on Christmas day.) In the morning, the children will come downstairs to find the tree lit, gifts waiting for them and best of all, baby Jesus has appeared in the Nativity scene as well!

9. Another new tradition I would love to implement is the Jesus stocking. The idea of adding our thanksgivings and prayers to Jesus daily is very inspiring and seems to really help us to focus on what we are trying to do during this time of preparation. Thank you, Karen for a wonderful idea!

10. Lastly, I'd like to be sure to attend Mass on the Holy Days of Obligation as well as other wonderful feast days. Some years, truthfully, I do feel quite overwhelmed with all that needs to be done and I might not make it to Mass as often as I'd like.

Other activities that we tend to do each year involve baking cookies, wrapping home-made gifts, and sending out a Christmas card or letter. I am not sure that I'll get to do very much in these areas this year, but I will certainly try to do some. These are usually the areas that cause me the greatest stress, so, I've promised myself that they are to be the lowest priority. Christ is first. I'm not sure that He is too concerned with whether or not I've mailed out 150 Christmas cards. I believe He'd rather be assured that I am teaching my children about the true meaning of Christmas, that we are giving to others more than receiving ourselves, and that we are preparing ourselves to receive Him body, mind, and spirit.

I pray each of you has a blessed and peaceful Advent. It is my greatest dream that one day, we will wake up and witness Christmas as it was that very first time.


K said...

"Jesus said to his disciples: 'Be constantly on the watch! Stay
awake!...You do not know when the Master of the house is coming.'" Mark.
13:33 (First Sunday of Advent)

Spiritual Christmas Crib for Jesus

The following directions show you how to build a spiritual crib in
heart for Christ. Use it to put Christ into your Christmas in a real,
living way.
Start on December 1. Read the thought indicated about Christ's first
crib. Practice it during the day. Do this daily during December and make
your heart a worthy crib for Christ on Christmas Day.

Dec.1 The Stable
Frequently during the day offer your heart to the little Infant Jesus.
Him to make it His home.
--Sweet Jesus, take my heart and make it meek and pure.

Dec.2 The Roof
See that the roof of the stable is in good condition, so that the Infant
Jesus is protected from rain and snow. This you will do by carefully
avoiding every uncharitable remark.
--Jesus, teach me to love my neighbor as myself.

Dec.3 Crevices
Carefully stop every crevice in the walls of the stable, so that the wind
and cold may not enter there. Guard your senses against temptations.
especially your ears against sinful conversations.
--Jesus, help me to keep temptations out of my heart.

Dec.4 Cobwebs
Clean the cobwebs from your spiritual crib. Diligently remove from your
heart every
inordinate desire of being praised. Renew this intention at least three
times today.
--My Jesus, I want to please You in all I do today.

Dec.5 Fence
Build a fence about the crib of your heart by keeping a strict watch over
your eyes,
especially at prayer.
--Sweet Jesus, I long to see You.

Dec.6 Manger
Fix the best and warmest corner of your heart for the manger of Jesus.
will do so by abstaining from what you like most in the line of
comfort and
--Mary, use these sacrifices to prepare my heart for Jesus in Holy

Dec.7 Hay
Supply the manger of your heart with hay, by overcoming all feelings of
pride, anger or envy.
--Jesus, teach me to know and correct my greatest sins.

Dec.8 Soft straw
Also provide your manger with soft straw by performing little acts of
mortification; for instance, bear the cold without complaints; or sit and
stand erect.
--Dear Jesus, Who suffered so much for me, let me suffer for love of You.

Dec.9 Swaddling clothes
Prepare these for the Divine Infant by folding your hands when you pray,
and praying
slowly and thoughtfully.
--Jesus let me love you more and more.

Dec.10 Blankets
Provide the manger of your with soft warm blankets. Avoid harsh and angry
words; be kind and gentle to all.
--Jesus, help me to be meek and humble like You.

Dec.11 Fuel
Bring fuel to the crib of Jesus. Give up your own will; obey your
cheerfully and promptly.
--Jesus, let me do Your will in all things.

Dec.12 Water
Bring fresh, clean water to the crib. Avoid every untruthful word and
deceitful act.
--Dearest Mary, obtain for me true contrition for my sins.

Dec.13 Provisions
Bring a supply of food to the crib. Deprive yourself of some food at
mealtime or candy as a treat.
--Jesus, be my strength and nourishment.

Dec.14 Light
See that the crib has sufficient light. Be neat and orderly about your
person; keep
everything in its place in your room.
--Jesus, be the life and light of my soul.

Dec.15 Fire
Take care to have the crib of your heart warmed by a cozy fire. Be
grateful to God for the love He has shown us in becoming man; behave with
grateful respect towards your parents and relatives.
--Jesus, how can I return Your love; how can I show my gratitude to You?

Dec.16 The ox
Lead the ox to the crib. Obey cheerfully without making excuses and
asking "why".
--I will obey for love of You, Jesus.

Dec.17 The donkey
Bring the donkey to the crib. Offer to the Divine Infant your bodily
strength; use it in the service of others.
--Jesus, accept my service of love; I offer it for those who do not love

Dec.18 Gifts
Gather some presents for the Divine Infant and His Blessed Mother. Give
alms for the
poor and say an extra decade of the rosary.
--Come, Jesus, to accept my gifts and to take possession of my heart.

Dec.19 Lambs
Strive to bring some little lambs, meek and patient. Do not murmur or
--Jesus,meek and humble of heart, make my heart like Yours.

Dec.20 Shepherds
Invite the shepherds to pay homage to our newborn King. Imitate their
stress in your speech and thoughts the idea that Christmas is important
because Jesus will be born again in you.
--Jesus, teach me to love You above all things.

Dec.21 The key
Provide the stable with a key to keep out thieves. Exclude from your heart
every sinful thought, every rash judgement.
--Dear Jesus, close my heart to all that hurts you.

Dec.22 Angels
Invite the angels to adore God with you. Cheerfully obey the inspirations
of your guardian angel and of your conscience.
--Holy Guardian Angel, never let me forget that you are with me always.

Dec.23 St. Joseph
Accompany Saint Joseph from door to door. Learn from him silently and
patiently to bear refusals and disappointments. Open wide your heart and
beg him to enter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
--Saint Joseph, help me to prepare for a worthy Christmas Communion.

Dec.24 The Blessed Virgin
Go meet your Blessed Mother. Lead her to the manger of your heart and beg
her to lay the Divine Infant in it. Shorten your chats and telephone
conversations and spend more time today thinking of Jesus and Mary and
--Come, dear Jesus, Come; my heart belongs to You.

Anonymous said...

All great ideas, K, and thanks to you, too!

Anonymous said...

I decided I would make a liturgical notebook of sorts. I think I may have even read about doing this on my wonderful friend, Cindy's blog. She always has great ideas and since we tend to think alike, I can't remember if I had been milling that idea around in my own mind before I read about it or not... sorry about that tangent.>>

This is called MIND MELD Karen! Isn't that scary? Bet we were both thinking it at the exact same instant!

Looking forward to reading the rest of your great post.. we are off to see dog art at the museum! :) :) :)

Esther said...

What wonderful ideas! I am sharing your blog with other Catholic moms.
God bless,