Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?

Last night, with Thanksgiving behind us (just!), the Christmas classics began showing in earnest on TV. One channel broadcasted “Frosty,” another “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and a third, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” As a child, I loved watching “Rudolph” and some of these other animated shows. It still strikes something deep within me to hear the music, narrators’ voices (Burl Ives ring a bell with anyone, or Danny Kaye?) and the classic lines from these programs.

As an adult, I’ve continued some traditions from my family experience, and developed new ones of my own. Sadly, some have been lost, like Christmas caroling door to door and returning home for shared refreshments afterward. Perhaps that one should be brought back? In China, friends and I carried lit candles as we caroled door to door one year—a very memorable and heart-warming experience!

Among those retained from my childhood are the following:

My mother would pack our Christmas stockings full of treats- small gifts, candy, and practical items like socks, a new toothbrush, etc. Always, there would be an orange. I continue this tradition, making sure to include some nuts, holiday candy and topping it all off with a teddy bear who sticks out of the top! My mom would set our stockings at the foot of our beds, and whenever we awoke in the a.m., we were allowed to open them…2 a.m., 4:00 a.m…., BUT we couldn’t go downstairs, where the tree stood encircled with gifts for a family of eight, until my parents arose, and dad slipped down to turn on the tree lights, adding to the ‘magic’ of the season!

My mother and I picked Ground Pine (before it wound up on the protected species list!), from which we created wreaths and sold them to earn $ for Christmas gifts we’d bestow. I continue to create wreaths, firstly, for a front door decoration, and sometimes extras to bestow upon family or friends, and secondly, so that it feels like Christmas! There are some traditions which truly help ‘make’ the holiday, and for me, wreath-making seems to be one of those. However, instead of collecting Ground Pine, which has been outlawed for years, I simply ask the tree vendors for branches they lop off trees they sell, for fitting in tree stands- a much simpler way to get greens!

I always hang mistletoe in a doorway, so that whoever wants an excuse for extra kisses during the holiday season may avail him/herself of it!! While in Lebanon during the Christmas season of 2011, I happened upon a floral shop which had BALLS of Mistletoe suspended in front of its shop! (I’d never known that’s how it grows- in a sphere!) I bought one, broke it into sprigs and hung them with burgundy ribbon, from front door and classroom door lintels of neighbors and co-teachers. I actually had folks whose doorways I didn’t decorate ASK me for some! It was a new and welcome tradition to some. No wonder!! I also understood finally, the tradition my mom and others had of creating ‘kissing balls.’

I’ve always loved using Advent calendars, where you open a window every day during the month of December, counting down the days till Christmas. Some paper calendars have a Bible verse inside each window telling the Christmas story, others a picture. In one German town, I actually saw a building with 25 ‘windows’ created with shutters on its exterior, for this purpose! I’ve given my nephews paper Advent calendars annually for years, perhaps long after they’d ‘outgrown them,’ because it does MY soul good to think of their use! This year, I gave my grandsons a calendar which contains a small Lego character or item behind each window, and those pieces get added to a winter scene which accompanies the actual calendar. I actually use wooden Advent calendars from LL Bean and The Christmas Tree Shops for my husband and daughter now. In each little drawer, opened daily during the month of December, is a gift tag which directs them to where they’ll find their gifts for that day- whether in their offices, on the tree or other. Shhh… don’t tell them, but this year’s gifts include things like a tin nutcracker containing Byes’ caramel corn, an Amaryllis potted bulb, and a small holiday ceramic cake pan with pumpkin bread. This is a fun tradition I look forward to annually!

My mom used to create an Advent wreath, which would, by Christmas Eve, hold three purple candles and one pink candle. This wreath decorated our dinner table during the month of December. Some years, I have done the same. I’ve bought the candles for this year, and intend to ask for boughs when we go for our tree next weekend. (Helpful hint: wreath frames can be found at a Dollar Tree near you! Every once in awhile, you come across one which contains candle cups. If not, you can use candle holders for tapers inside any round evergreen wreath.)

Whatever age I’ve been, attending a Christmas Eve church service, whether at midnight or earlier, has been a key part of the holiday for me. When we light candles each of us is holding, as we stand together in a giant circle ringing the sanctuary, or in rows in front of our seats, the sharing of the growing light is a powerful tradition which often brings tears to my eyes.

Gift exchanges with people I care about are also a vital part of Christmas celebrations for me every year. It’s not so much about the gifts themselves as it is the expression of the love shared between and among us.

As we look forward in anticipation of the return of Jesus, our Messiah, there are a few things I think are good for each of us to be doing…. expressing the love we have for God and for each other often and freely; gathering together regularly to worship Him- something we will enjoy doing FOREVER!!; practicing generosity, as our heavenly Father is SO VERY generous with us, and making sure that we keep clean, pure hearts before Him. He came and died for us; the least we can do is live for Him!

I pray your family and you enjoy a beautiful Advent season.


REFLECTION QUESTIONS…

What are some of your favorite animated Christmas specials that you still watch and enjoy as an adult?

Are there any special things that you make every year such as a wreath or favorite holiday snack? (And am I the only one who had not heard of “Ground Pine” or “Kissing Balls”? 😇 ~ Pastor Randy)

Wende mentions many good scripturally-based activities that we should be engaged in during this season (and all year round) such as expressing love, gathering together, and practicing generosity. What are some ways that you plan to participate in each of these?


This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.

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