Advent Traditions: The Book Basket

 
 I love the Advent season. 

I love the cozy evenings, the early sunset,and the Christmas decorations in my living room. 

I love the traditions that we have started as a family. We always decorate the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My life is less stressful that weekend, as the Turkey Trot is over, and Matt’s busy season at church is just about ramping up. . .but not quite yet. 

Since I am married to a pastor, Advent is filled with many evenings at home alone with the children. This used to bother me, but as I matured, and the children got a bit older and not so needy, I found that I enjoy this time with them. 

One of the things that I have always enjoyed was reading to the children. I was read to for hours at a time as a child, and those moments on the laps of my loved ones are some of my sweetest family memories. 

I admit, I don’t read to my kids nearly as much as I was read to. I grew up before Netflix, cable TV and even video games. I was one of two children, not six, and I had the rare luxury of a set of grandparents living in my home during my very young years. 

But during Advent, the beginning of the church year, I make some New Years Resolutions of sorts. . .and one of those resolutions is to read more with the kids. 

We have been reading through “Jotham’s Journey” during our Advent devotional and have been loving it. 

The other way that I fit more reading into our evenings is the the Advent Book Basket. The week before Thanksgiving, I scour our bookshelves for all of the Christmas books, I grab some of last years’ wrapping paper and I wrap each book and put them in a pretty basket. Each night, after devotions, the girls take turns opening a package and we read the book together. 

Some of the books are quite old, actual relics from my warm childhood. (Including the sadly, out of print “Donkey Daniel in Bethlehem.” I will be sharing that book on Instagram next week!). Every year though, I add at least one book to our collection. 

 This year I added Callista Gingrich’s delightful “Christmas in America” to our rotation. I was sent this book for review, and the girls and I thoroghly enjoyed it! “Christmas in America” is fifth in a series of picture books featuring Ellis the Elephant. Elllis travels through American history to see how Christmas has been celebrated, in good times and in bad times. We, of course, were delighted to see North Dakota represented! The older children enjoyed learning more about each event in the resource guide at the end of the book.  

 What do you enjoy reading together in Advent and Christmas time? Leave a title in the comments and I may add it to our basket!

Christmas Music Confessional

I’m a confessional, liturgical, Lutheran. And I have a confession to make. I listen to Christmas music during advent.

This may not seem like a big deal, but it kind of is.

When I was a young married woman, I was very serious about keeping advent. The thought was if we saved Christmas for December 24, it would be so much sweeter.

We used to wait to decorate for Christmas until December 23 or so. We only listened to advent hymns during the four weeks leading up to Christmas. I stayed out of the Christmas candy (not a bad practice).

I love advent. I love the extra midweek church service. I enjoy spending additional devotional time. It is nice to not spend a month stressing out about Christmas.

So what happened? Well, my children for one. Their pre-Christmas excitement is contagious. They are practicing Christmas songs in school and wander around the house humming them. Also, December is dark. . .very dark. Some candles and cheerful Christmas music warm up my living room.

But the biggest change is that I have a desk job this year. And I spend 8+ hours a day listening to music. November is a crazy-busy stressful work season for me, and once Thanksgiving is over my mood is lighter. I celebrate the end of November with some of my favorite music. While other music styles get old over 8 hours, I never really tire of music proclaiming my savior’s birth.

I stream music from Spotify.com, which allows me to listen to and discover new music as well as “spy” on what my friends are listening to. It is like having an unlimited music collection. I discovered some fun Go Fish! Christmas songs, I love listening to the Nat King Cole classics and I can listen to this several times a day (it never gets old!)

So, I may be breaking some unspoken Lutheran rule by indulging in Christmas music now, but I can assure you that I won’t make the error of hanging it all up On December 26! I’ll still be listening through. January 6 (and possibly longer!)

Chime in! When do you start listening to your Christmas music?

Why We Don’t Have an Elf on the Shelf

Let me get this out in the open. I’m not judging you if you have adopted an elf to report your children’s behavior to Santa. I’m not. But, let’s just say, it’s not for me.

Lest you think I’m all Bah Humbug and no fun…click around here. We have a lot of fun. We laugh a lot, our kids are spoiled rotten (really), and they are mostly well-behaved.

But when we get down to it, Christmas is about gifts. And not just any gifts. One particular Gift. One we received not because of our exemplary behavior, but because we needed Him.

So, for the same reasons I try not to bribe my kids to so the regular things they should do anyway, I’m not going to bribe or cajole my children into being good family members in hopes of receiving good things for Christmas. Sometimes they are wonderful, lovely creatures, and sometimes they prove perfectly that they were born sinful human beings, in need of a Savior.

In our home our children find chocolate coins and other little trinkets in their shoes on the morning of December 6. We discuss the real St. Nicholas. We continue to focus on Advent. We repent of our sins. We pray that Christ will come again. And on December 24 and 25 we go to church and we have a grand celebration with our church family. We eat too much fabulous food, and we give our children too many presents that they don’t deserve. However, our parental love for our children overlooks their most obvious flaws and we want to give them good gifts.

Our Heavenly Father is the same. He does not need someone to report our behavior to Him. He knows our very thoughts and our hearts. And, in spite of, and because of our behavior He sent His perfect, holy, innocent Son to earth to be sin for us.

That, my dear readers, is a gift that cannot be bought. It is a free gift.

Join me throughout Advent as I share some of our traditions (fun and serious) and glorify the most  Wonderful Gift of all, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)

 

Chime in! What special ways do you mark Advent? Are you incorporating new traditions this year? You know I’d love to hear from you!