When my brother and I were young, there were times it seemed Christmas wasn’t arriving fast enough, that it was taking ENTIRELY too long and we just couldn’t POSSIBLY wait any longer! We’d moan and bemoan the slow arrival of the day (and the gifts) and our mom would tell us, naturally: “You have nothing to do but wait – the 25th will get here on the 25th, no faster no slower.”
I think my children are beginning to feel the anticipation as well. It’s somewhere around the 15th when December is half over, when Christmas is only ten days away, that the squeeze really sets in. I just can’t wait any longer! Celebrating Advent doesn’t make that part any different. In fact, one of the goals of Advent is to heighten the anticipation. The tricky part of course, is keeping our priorities straight, modeling that for our children and passing that on to them. To build anticipation not toward the gifts but toward the moment when we finally place baby Jesus in the manger, when we finally complete our Advent candle wreath and then yes, when we finally see what lay hidden inside those wrapped packages. 1, 2, 3.
Crafting Anticipation Toward the Celebration of Christ
1. Leave Jesus Out – for now. Whether you do a traveling nativity or whether you set it up all in one place – resist the urge to include baby Jesus until Christmas morning. If you’d like to set up a second nativity (with or without Jesus), by all means go ahead! THEN… talk about it. Work toward building the anticipation, point out that the scene is incomplete until you add baby Jesus on Christmas morning, remind them of why his birth was so special, etc.
2. Use your Advent candle wreath to it’s full advantage. It’s so easy to spend two minutes reading a few verses, saying a quick prayer and then moving on to something else. We’ve been there, done that. Spend a few minutes more, reviewing what each of the candles represent, asking questions, praying more fervantly and specifically and reminding them of which candle you will light the next week and when you will light the Christ candle. I believe the Christ candle is considered optional on the candle wreath, but I’m encouraging you – take that option!
3. Layer your traditions. We begin decorating our house at the beginning of Advent by setting up our tree. We continue to pull our decorations and set them up over the next few days. We don’t have too many so we plan a couple of craft making projects to make some additional decorations later in the month. Christmas presents begin to go under the tree as they arrive and are wrapped. I’ve been called crazy, but kids don’t get into them. They just stare at them. As our traveling nativity converges in one spot, as our projects get completed, as our service projects get done, as our gifts pile under the tree, the building up of anticipation is a very natural and inevitable by-product.
And of course as I have been saying all along – Advent is also about remembering that Jesus came, and building anticipation for the day when he is coming again! This is by far the hardest part for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to include it by saying it. But it can be hard to really get excited about it and have it make an impact and a make a difference on the way we live our lives now, knowing that he could come back at any moment and that even if he didn’t come back before we died that we should live our lives as if he would.
How do I get that? How do we get there?
I don’t think it’s something that we get by hanging lots of Jesus ornaments on our tree. I think that comes out of year-round training of the heart. Something that we are/will continue working toward as we continue to study the bible and grow our hearts (mine included.) And yet it is through these realizations that I am convicted by how much I really fall down on this. I am completely humbled, both by the responsibility that I have been given to raise my children but also by the overwhelming reality and weight of God’s sovereign plan. To feel, for just a moment, the truth that this life of mine that I get caught up in is not all about me, not about me at all, that there is a bigger plan, that we are all moving toward. It humbles me. Oddly enough, it’s just enough to help me focus through the clutter of the season, to meditate on the real reason for celebrating.
My prayer for my household this season, and for yours, is that we would be able to obtain (even if just for a moment but hopefully more than that) a moment of clarity. May God bless you as you celebrate the birth of our savior, and eagerly await the day of his return.
The King is Coming!