Advent was a big part of my church tradition growing up. Lighting the candles in the Advent wreath each week to celebrate one of the shortest seasons of the liturgical year, the pinks and the purples of the candles and the priest’s robes a funny contrast to the Christmas-y reds and greens everywhere else.
Advent disappeared as I grew into my high school and college years, as I left that traditional church setting for a different one. Nobody talked about Advent anymore. I realized that no one talked much about Lent or the days in Holy Week either. The liturgical vocabulary more or less disappeared from my life.
Until I had children.
A couple years ago, I was listening to a podcast where the hosts discussed their plans to celebrate Advent with their small children that year. They had all sorts of plans, from daily Bible studies to activity books to baking treats to tie right in with the Advent season. It caught me off-guard.
Because it was October.
Yeesh, I thought, Am I supposed to be thinking about this already? Do I need to start an Advent tradition with my two two-year olds and baby? Am I already failing?
That year came and went. We didn’t do anything for Advent. Same with last year. And, admittedly, this one as well.
I’m doing an Advent study with some friends this year. I’ve missed more days than I’ve kept up with. Still, it feels like a step forward. Most years it gets to the second week of December before I realize it’s Advent and I probably should have started on something a solid week and a half ago.
It’s not for a lack of caring about the season. The Christmastime is one of my favorite parts of the year, for the magic of twinkling lights, snow, and Santa just as much as the miracle in a manger we are all waiting for. And I can’t say it’s because I’m too busy in this season to stop and think about Advent. Outside the chaos of life with three small children, that is. Truly, I don’t feel we’re over-booked with Christmas activities or events, my gift list is usually under control by the beginning of December.
No, I think it’s because Advent often feels like just one more thing to DO, in a season where I would love to just sit back and BE.
I read a post on the other day along these same lines, about the trendiness of Advent these days. It was comforting and spoke so strongly to my own heart.
Because the most important thing this Advent isn’t that we do a daily Advent-related activity.
It’s that the kids have been playing with their Nativity set and we’ve talked over and over the familiar story with them. (Playful embellishments encouraged.)
It’s that we’ve baked more than our fair share of Christmas cookies. It’s that we’ve delivered them to our neighbors.
It’s that we set up the tree and I let them hang ornaments wherever they dang well pleased. (Even if I re-arranged it all later so there were ornaments ABOVE the four-foot line.)
It’s that we’ve spent time watching Christmas shows together, all piled on the couch with blankets and snuggles.
It’s that they add a new sticker ornament first thing every morning to the paper Christmas trees taped to their doors to help them count the days until Jesus is born. And, yes, also the days until Santa comes.
There’s another tug in my brain, (as happens with other traditions or the lack of), that says, It’s too late! You didn’t start an Advent tradition from their very first Christmas so you missed it! It’s too late!
That thought is, of course, utter bullshit.
The truth is I still have very young children, who, for the most part, won’t remember these early Christmases. The truth is I don’t remember most of my early Christmases, outside of a few moments here and there. The truth is it’s not now or never. We wake each morning to new mercies, new chances. And each year and every season as well.
There’s always next year. Or the year after that. Or maybe, never at all. Maybe we’ll just work on baking more cookies and sitting back to be still in this season of magic and waiting.