Monday, December 20, 2010
Advent and other things...
For all the years since we were married, this is what sits on the hall stand, just as you enter the door.
With anticipation, we await the lighting of the Christ candle on Christmas day.
Shortly after the birth of our first child, we realized that we very quickly had to take matters in hand, if we wanted our children to learn to observe the real meaning of Christmas.
Our holidays are simple... so simple in fact, many wonder.
We decorate simply and close to Christmas, except for the Advent wreath.
The wreath contains five candles, three purple ones and one pink one and in the center a white candle.
The light from the candles represent the light of Christ come to the world.
Each week, in the four weeks leading up to Christmas day, we light another candle, and increase the light, bringing us closer to Christmas day.
Three of the candles are purple, representing repentance as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ again in our hearts and home. One candle is pink and represents joy.
Lighting the first candle signals our expectation.
Lighting the second candle is hope.
The third candle, when lit, represents joy.
The fourth candle represents purity.
The white candle is lit on Christmas day.
Late, by comparison to many, we cut a tree from the woods. Our trees have always been part of the hilarity of our holidays as they are always challenged in some special way. Put up often within the week of Christmas, we decorate our tree with ornaments which are like so many families, that the children have made and that we've accumulated over time. Falling trees, cats climbing trees and discovering 'hitchhikers' on the trees are common. Most memorable among the hitchhikers were thousands of small praying mantis which hatched from their egg case.
We give modest gifts, by any comparison and have always stressed giving to others.
We give to symbolize the gifts that were given the Christ child.
We've encouraged our children to give of themselves, not just at Christmas time, but year round as a gift not only to others but to grace their own lives with the abundance that comes from doing for and sharing with others.
We share holiday meals and traditions. Every year, while we decorate the tree, we make homemade chocolate pudding. We joke about how my husband's brother can tell that we're making this pudding and magically appear just as it's ready.
We love to sit and read with the lights on the tree and a roaring fire.
Most importantly, we attend services on Christmas Eve and receive Holy Communion in a reverent service with our church family.
When our children were small, Santa came on Christmas morning. Like all families, we got up way too early (one child is a real morning person!) and took photos and looked at the things that Santa left.
After that first couple of years of being parents, we truly took the Santa routine down to size by letting the children ask for three things. By the time we added gifts from grandparents and others, there was always more than enough to keep them very busy.
As we've been bustling about this December, I've been more than a little contemplative about the holidays.
I've been busy knitting gifts and baking goodies.
I sat a while yesterday with my mother in law and thought about all the years that I've known her.
Her presence of mind did not realize that there was a holiday at hand and my heart was quite heavy when I hugged her and left. I pray for her and all who, like her, struggle against mental illness and age related dementia. I pray for those who care for her constant needs and who also love her.
I talked with my daughter, who will work round the clock on Christmas day. I will pray with her and for her that she may bring comfort to those parents and children who are hospitalized. I recall a Christmas season that I spent in a pediatric unit with my own little boy, apart from my young daughter and I recall the feelings to this day.
I am grateful that there are health care providers who work their assigned duties on holidays to care for and watch over those who suffer.
I am critically aware that next year, when Advent season begins, even the youngest will be in college.
I'll be needing to change a few of my Advent traditions.
As my children grow up and go out into the world, for their own holidays, I pray that they find meaningful traditions and will always continue to focus on the true meaning of the season and hold it close in their hearts.
The true spirit of Christmas, the Grace of God come to earth in the form of a child, for each of us, is something that resides within, that no other person can take from you, or give to you.
I wish for you, my family and friends, the spirit of Christmas, a calm and gentleness abiding in your heart for this holiday and beyond.