Advent is a time of preparation. But sometimes we're so busy preparing that we forget why we're even doing the work.
For too many years, Christmastime was packet with a to-do list. Christmas shopping. Christmas cards. Parties. Shows to watch at a specified time. Routine, routine, routine, crammed around work.
And then I had kids. Granted the first few Christmases were a blur in their own right, but as my children have aged I have realized I've wanted something more with the season.
Not more gifts. More meaning.
At the end of the day, my kids don't lose sleep over whether they got a certain toy their friends didn't. They just want to enjoy life.
So this Christmas season, I've tried a little harder to keep Advent real for them. We've largely kept off the TV and the commercials and stayed out of stores. Instead, we've been doing what we can to inject a little spirit into the season as we can.
These last two weeks, we've been busy in our little house. We made our own Nativity scene. Wrapped some needed items for children who need our love this season. Started baking cookies for my son's daycare party. Made a few Christmas cards and gifts for people we love.
We also experimented with a little more of the reason for the season. On Monday, we enjoyed a visit from St. Nicholas (not his watered-down, portly alter ego). In their slippers, the kids found a small piece of (admittedly leftover Halloween) candy and an encouraging note. A week later, my daughter was still telling her friends how St. Nicholas had written on a piece of paper from her Tinkerbell notebook because he didn't bring any.
On Wednesday, my husband and I quietly slipped away for a noontime service. It's amazing the difference no wiggling, giggling children make in your ability to relax and appreciate the words of your faith.
On Friday, we celebrated a service for Our Lady of Guadalupe, an amazing celebration that brought 35 brightly dressed children in traditional Mexican clothing together to relive their faith and a small bit of our heritage.
And yes, I realize this week and next brings the flurry of activities. The kids' Christmas programs. (Oh, and the angel costume I need to crank out beforehand...) The rest of the holiday baking. Not one but two weekends' worth of guests. And our "birthdayChristmas" as my son refers to his special day.
Even with the holiday hubub, a few short hours of refocusing on the real Christmas season was worth the investment. I hope you take the opportunity to do the same, and enjoy Christmas for all it's worth!