Our fondest Christmas memories began to take place ten years ago,
when a few odd circumstances set into motion a new tradition for our family,
one which we would come to anticipate with great joy,
relish its duration,
and look forward to next year.
The tradition of Advent.
The first thing that happened, was that we moved away from family
into a very small parsonage with our (then 5) children.
Christmas time came, and we had absolutely no room for a Christmas tree.
Secondly, we would not have family to celebrate with,
and thirdly, we had very little means to purchase our chilren gifts.
But alas, Brian found a wonderful book that inspired us to new beginnings.
That would be The Advent Book, by Jack and Kathy Stockman.
I think back on that year as a providential "accident"
that led the way for our family to let go of what we thought Christmas should be like
and simply embrace celebrating the coming of Christ.
The way in which that formulated for us, was each evening for family devotion and reading time,
we let the children take turns opening a door in the new book.
All the children would eagerly gather together at daddy's feet to see what came next.
We opened the last door Christmas day, and celebrated with a nice brunch,
in which I made a new found recipe which would become another part of the tradition,
Our celebration that year looked so different from years before,
and was so vastly more Christ centered,
that everyone agreed we should do the same thing next year.
Ten years later, we have added to the splendor of our Advent celebration,
and deterred from "Christmas" as our culture celebrates.
We have found it to be a wonderful, simple, serene, focused season.
Our children love it.
I love it.
We all cherish the rituals that hallmark this season.
The festivities include adorning the lodge with the natural beauty of evergreens
and the capitvating and alluring glow of candles,
a Child friendly nativity,
an Advent wreath on the coffee table ,
and 25 handmade cards with some of the prophecies of the coming Christ.
To this we have the daily ritual, which we partake of in the crisp winter evening;
lighting the wreath,
opening of doors in the Advent book,
and the reading of a fictional book, such as Jotham's Journey,
while we gather by the fireside in the living room sipping a relaxing tea that will ready the children for bed. Thus, each evening is oppulant with the warm companionship of family and meaningful readings.
Each Sunday night, the table is set lavishly for tea
as a way of emphasizing a new candle to light in the wreath,
another virtue to learn and embrace.
So many of our holiday memories have found their beginnings around the family table,
where family ties, discipleship, and home cooked fare join our hearts to one another.
In our home, someone almost always spills their water.
It would hardly be a Providence Lodge dinner without it,
but these are the very things that endear us to each other, and cause us to smile.
Around our home, you will see the Wise Men,
having set off on their journey to the Christ Child with a long way to go in the next 5 weeks.
They are currently in the dining room window.
Mary and Joseph await their firstborn son on the newly fashioned mantle,
where a shepherd boy watches his sheep nearby.
The words of Advent,
Faith, Hope, Love and Joy,
that teach us and instill in us a profound sense of the history,
the longing of so many,
the full story and meaning of Emanuel, God with us.
This first week of Advent, we recall the Faith of so many over thousands of years,
looking for the promised one.
As we sing O come O Come Emanuel,
I cannot help but envision the multitudes whose souls longed to see the Messiah come.
They had faith, they knew it would be, and they waited expectantly.
These people of Faith held the 450 some prophecies of the Messiah close in their hearts,
waiting and watching.
They had Faith to believe God's Word and live by it,
no matter what the rest of the world was doing.
Oh to have such steadfast faith!
When Christmas Day comes,
and the last door is opened,
the last candle lit,
the Christmas Bread made and enjoyed,
we will make a little journey ourselves to visit family not so far away.
Our prayer then, is that through this focused season of Advent,
we will have embraced the Savior so thoroughly
that the aroma of Christ is very present on us
as we live each day of the next year