Monday, December 8, 2014

Anticipation: Recovering the Wonder of Advent Part 3: Slow Down the Season

So far in my quest to build anticipation I've mused on modeling and not mis-using Santa and such. Today I'm going to share my thoughts on not overlooking the season. After all, I want to build anticipation.  If my family's schedules are overbooked where does that leave us by December 25th? Exhausted?  Focused on social instead of the one who came to redeem a kingdom?

Slow It Down! Way down. If I start the season slowly instead of with a bang things won't seem as hurried. If I gradually build steam like I'm using this month to prepare the season may not feel as harried. Building anticipation slowly and gradually may just be a piece of the puzzle needed a more relaxed relaxed Christ centered season.

Here are ways in which I'm trying to slowly build steam this season.

1-Spread out the decorating throughout the season. This year I'm not decorating all at once. Christmas then isn't thrust upon us suddenly. Keep things subdued initially with a feeling of growing delight and anticipation.
Excitement builds gradually as the decorations increase steadily.

2- Talk about any symbolism and pray. As you decorate or admire the decorations casually offer brief prayers of thanksgiving, penetance, adoration to the one who is the "reason for the season". Explain the story of Benedict.  Talk about greenery. I learned that in some traditions the wreath on the front door appeared on December 24th as did the tree.
 Have an advent wreath. Use an advent calendar and reading schedule. Reference your readings throughout the day. You could even change colors for a few decorations to reflect the change between advent and Christmas.  This year T has a mini "advent tree". The ornaments are blue and purple for now but on December 24 will change to white. And seriously though I don't intend to teach him "happy birthday Jesus" as I think it belittles the real meaning of the day. It may sound like an easy way to explain the purpose of Christmas but the incarnation is so much more.

3- Social

Jesus came to redeem his people- plural- so celebrate with others. I think there's a real balance that has to be struck though.  I don't want to over schedule my family. That means I may goto a select handful of events but not everything. Something else is time with extended family, especially December 25 & 24. They're important.  Is Christmas about family though? If I'm overwhelming my kids that hardly makes it a celebration of Christ's love. If I prioritize family time over church I'm also sending a strong message to my kids. You see, Jesus really is the reason for the season. I can tack Bible reading on to my Christmas morning or I can make worshipping Him the priority and tack everything else on to show He's the one we are celebrating.  A few years back Christmas landed on Sunday. S and I had such a hard time finding a service open Christmas morning!  Sadly after all that effort we ended up giving in to pressure from his family and attended a Saturday evening service instead. This was wrong. We set the wrong tone and the wrong example for our little T. Im just glad he was only a toddler then! Jesus came to redeem his people. Those people are called to be God's children.  We're part of the family of God! How better then to make time on Christmas day than to worship God incarnate with brothers and sisters in Christ?  What joy to which we can anticipate! The now and the yet to come, when thanks to this miraculous birth we can anticipate celebrating with all our family in the celestrial city. What am I saying? I think I need to search out a Christmas Day service, even on a weekday, if there still is such a thing.

4- Choose My Music Carefully

This may or may not sound silly. But I recommend choosing which songs you sing in the weeks leading up to Christmas around hope and expectation rather than fulfillment. December 24 things can change. Save singing Silent Night for December 24th and on and for now sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. Wait to sing Hark the Herald Angels sing on Christmas,  for now singing Hark The Glad Sound. Waiting to sing While Shepherds Watched learn to sing From The Squalor Of A Borrowed Stable for now. For a place to begin learning advent songs check out lists here or look in a hymnal's advent section. Ideas include

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent

Come Long Expected Jesus

Lift Up Your Heads

The Mighty God The Lord

Rejoice All You Believers

Christ Is Coming

When He Cometh

O Lord How Shall I Meet You

Savior Of The Nations Come

Hark The Glad Sound

Check out this link for contemporary

Then the evening of the 24th burst out in Hark The Herald Angels and others. You'll have a couple more weeks to enjoy them (&  not grow tired of them).