Friday, December 14, 2007

Advent Update

I hope that my readers who are not Christians will feel free to read this and share their own holiday traditions. I would love to know what you do to make this time of year special or to read posts on your blogs around the time of your holidays.

It seems that my frequency of posting will directly correlate with the amount of attention and energy my children need. This week that amount has been huge. Calvin is going through a tough phase. Do the rest of you moms of little ones have this cycle of six or so weeks of great behavior followed by a couple of horrendous weeks? I think it gets slightly less horrendous each time, which must mean we are making progress overall. I don't believe in the "terrible twos" anymore, and I sometimes wonder where that phrase came from. I think it is more like a rollercoaster from eighteen months on. Hobbes managed to hit his first tough disciplining phase at the same time as his brother's most recent one.

Anyway, this is not meant to be a post about child development. Despite the difficult week, we have been having a lot of fun with Advent. Without meaning to, we have stumbled across traditions that are perfect for each child. Calvin is really enjoying the Jesse Tree ornaments and stories. Hobbes is too young to understand it, and I was afraid I had jumped the gun with Calvin, too. I don't think he is old enough to understand the idea of how all of these stories are leading up to the story of Jesus, but he loves stories. Even when I think he isn't listening, he is. I often see him hanging out by the Jesse Tree banner going over what each of the symbols mean.

Last week, when he was looking at the symbols, he pointed to the fruit tree, symbol of the Fall of man. We had talked about how Adam and Eve got to be with God every day in the Garden of Eden and how that changed when they disobeyed God and ate from the tree. I could see his mind working as he looked at the symbol, and he turned to me and asked, "Mommy, how did they get to be with God again?" What a great way to tie in the story of Jesus, and even of Israel and the tabernacle and temple.

(I am not brave enough to post pictures of the banner, though you can see it in the background of the opening photo. It serves its purpose, but I am pretty sure no one is getting embroidered gifts from me this Christmas! I am just not that crafty.)

Even though Hobbes doesn't get the Jesse Tree or remember the stories, he is definitely excited about the Advent Book. He LOVES evening prayer these days. He will point out the colors of the candles in our Advent wreath, and as soon as we start singing, he keeps saying "Abent book! Abent book!" We let him and Calvin take turns opening doors, and we reread the story from the beginning every night. I really love this book. It is so beautifully illustrated, and it is a great way to teach little ones the Christmas story through repetition. It is worth the money.

We are slowly beginning the process of decorating. My brother-in-law brought us a freshly cut Christmas tree from the mountains a couple of days ago, and it is sitting undecorated in our living room. I am going to use the extra greenery to decorate the outside of the house and prepare the places for our nativity scenes this weekend. We will put out the stables and shepherds and animals and will probably let Mary and Joseph begin a trek through our house the week before Christmas. We may even get the lights on the tree this weekend. Over the next eleven days, we will hang stockings, get out the nutcracker collection, put up more lights, and prepare the rest of our gifts and baking. We'll save the tree decorating for Christmas Eve.

I love the slow pace of this. In fact, I am loving it so much that I may write another post on it later this week. I will save the rest of my more meditative thoughts on Advent for that. In the meantime, here are three albums we are listening to to get us in the spirit of Christmas. We save the pure Christmas carols for the Twelve Days of Christmas (the 25th to Epiphany), but these three albums focus on the whole story of God's redemptive work through Jesus. Playing this music while I do daily chores has helped keep me in a meditative mood, making this time special and set apart. Suddenly, cleaning the kitchen is a way to prepare for the Christ child, not just my usual Thursday routine.

Handel's Messiah

The Birth of Jesus by John Michael Talbot

Behold the Lamb by Andrew Peterson

What about you? How are your holidays shaping up? What music do you listen to this time of year? We are always looking for really good Christmas carol CD's, so I would love to hear your recommendations.


Kerry said...

Good Morning! Love your Advent update - and I'm jealous of your Advent book! It sounds wonderful, but Amazon is sold out. :( Oh, well, I'll order if for next year.

We are having a lovely Advent here. We've celebrated St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia Day. This weekend we will put up our tree for "Joy Sunday" - or Gaudete Sunday and put out our creche. Mary and Joseph will start traveling to the creche via tables, shelves, piano, etc. :)

My kids are a bit older than yours, and I remember thinking the same things "What are they getting out of this?" I can tell you, now that they are older, the rythms, stories, and images with which you've filled their young minds will provide greater fruit!

I'm often amazed when my kids pop out with little tidbits I don't remember "teaching" them. In fact, I'd not taught them, they'd just absorbed it through those self-same rythms, stories, and images.

I'll be doing an "Advent Round up" of links for this week (did one last week) and I'm going to include your update post. :)

Jamie said...

Hello! I came here via Kerry's Advent post. First of all, I have to say, I love your kids online pseudonyms--Calvin and Hobbes was a hilarious comic strip and Calvin very often reminds me of my own son. (Who goes through the same phases you mentioned. He is six, so I am with you in wondering where the phrase "terrible two's" came from.) I had a blog a year or two ago in which I debated between calling my son "Calvin" or "Max" from Where the Wild Things Are.

Thanks for sharing a bit about your leisurely Advent/Christmas pace. Our daily Advent devotionals are the only thing that are keeping me sane through this holiday season. It is wonderful to be calmed and reminded by focusing on the real reason we celebrate Christmas--the gift of God's son, which certainly tops anything I still have on my shopping list. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on Advent. :)