Monday, December 3, 2012

Advent for the Advent Calendar Impaired (in which I tell you it's OK to be counter culture)

In case you haven't noticed, it's Christmas time, and everyone and their brother is doing an advent calendar.
Or Elf on the Shelf.
Or both.
I've got to admit, it's all a little overwhelming to me.
Just do a search for advent calendars on Pinterest, and you'll see what I mean.
Don't get me wrong, many of those calendars are beautiful, fun, and super creative.
Strangely enough, that just makes them all the more overwhelming!
After a while, I start to feel this pressure to take part and do these things, even if they are contrary to my hopes for how my family will experience Christmas this year.

This Christmas, more than ever before, I have 2 goals: to keep things simple, and to keep things focused on Jesus.
This doesn't mean we won't do fun things like go to the Christmas parade or see the lights, do lots of baking and cooking for friends, or go see Santa.
It just means I am doing my best to not add more things to my to do list that don't really need to be there.
Things like this:
Many advent calendars involve buying little trinkets for your child to open on the 24 days leading up to Christmas.
Buying 24 little trinkets, times 3, sounds exhausting to me.
Thinking of 24 trinkets to buy sounds exhausting.
Also, buying 24 trinkets, times 3, could be really expensive since I despise the dollar store, and refuse to buy my kids cheap junk that will be broken or tossed the next day.
Also, trinkets mean clutter.
Clutter does not simplify my life.
Other advent calendars suggest you offer your children special treats that are activities, not things.
The thing is, December is already a really busy month.
Doing one special activity a day sounds extremely exhausting to me.
Heck, sometimes doing one special activity a week is extremely exhausting to me!
Again, not simplifying.
I know all this makes me sound like a real Scrooge.
But I promise, I'm not.
Instead, I'm realizing that many of us are trying so hard to make every moment of this month so super, duper special, and fun, and exciting, and full of memory making moments, that it all just becomes too much.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Because really, isn't this the most important part of Christmas?

And isn't this what you want your children to focus on?
You might not end up with a Pinterest worthy advent calendar, or your kids might miss out on getting that special Christmas pencil when they complete day 15's advent scavenger hunt, but it will be OK.
Because you can still celebrate advent with your family.
You can celebrate in a simple and meaningful way.
Let me tell you what we did tonight.
After dinner, we sat down together in the living room.
We lit 2 candles because today is December 2nd.
They were't special advent candles, or any special colors, or anything more than some IKEA votives in mason jars.
We read a part of the Christmas story out of The Jesus Storybook Bible, and then we sang some Christmas carols together.
We had a good talk after we read.
We talked of Old Testament prophesies, of God using a poor, young girl like Mary to carry out His magnificent plan, and what the world would be like if Jesus had never come.
It was simple and just what I want for this Christmas season.
At this point I know we can realistically make that happen for the rest of the Sundays of Advent.
There won't be any guilt over missed days, and we won't loose steam because we are trying to cram in too many things in a day.
Next week our tree will be up and the time together will be that much more special as we turn off the lights and sing carols around the tree.
We'll probably recite the verses from Luke that we are learning together for school.
And also our poem, Christmas Everywhere.  (I love this poem!)
We might even have hot cocoa.
With marshmallows!
See, I am not a Scrooge.
I am just a mama who knows her limitations and who is finally learning to accept them.
And I am excited by time spent together doing simple things.
Because simple really is beautiful.

It is a counter culture idea.
I know, because I went to Target last night after the kids went to bed.
All I needed was baby wipes, paper towels and a filter for our Britta water pitcher.
Yet there I was, wandering the aisles, thinking about getting Lilly a new Hello Kitty water bottle, even though the one she has is still perfectly good.
It is very tempting to make the Christmas season all about consuming, and being crazy busy, and getting stressed out because we've over committed, until it just isn't peaceful anymore.
I'm here to tell you that you can be a Christmas slacker.
Pick the things that mean the most to you and do them.
And that's it.
It might end up being the simplest Christmas you've ever had.
And that is not a bad thing.
Now if you are still really wanting to jump aboard the advent calendar bandwagon, I have a few ideas for you.
None of them are too overwhelming, and if you can't manage them for this year, start working on them for next Christmas and you'll be ahead of the game.
This never actually works for me, but you might be a better planner than I am.
So, if I was going to do one advent calendar, it would be this one. (see more pics of it here)
I like the simple, beautiful, fonts for each number.
It reminds me of Alexander Girard and also the graphics created by House Industries, both of which my design loving soul appreciates greatly.
I like that the pockets are small enough to hold one chocolate coin for each kid and a piece of paper with a scripture on it.
Because if I were doing and advent calendar, that is what I'd give my kids each day.
Simple. Sweet. Focused on Jesus.
Who knows?
I might get all crazy and do this next Christmas.

If you are wanting an advent activity for each day that is Christ centered, and more than fun activities, junky trinkets, or candy, this is the thing for you.
This, free, printable devotion guide from Anne Voskamp is beautiful, and all about Jesus.
There is a little, paper ornament to hang from the tree, (or put into one of those bags from the advent calendar I mentioned above--see how I did that?)  and a corresponding reading from scripture.
I am thinking of printing this up and doing it with my kids this year, even though we are already a bit behind.
Because we do Bible together in school everyday, this could be our Bible time and it would not add anything extra to our plate.
I don't think we'd be able to do it every night as a family because some nights we are doing other things, Aaron or I are gone, or the kids are tired and cranky and all we really want to do with them is put them to bed!
Just being honest with you here.
But we could do it together some nights and other times in the morning for school.
This is something worth investing time in because it emphasizes the most important part of Christmas--the birth of Jesus.

And if both of those things still sound like too much, here is an idea that you can do with your small child today.
Make a paper chain, one strip of paper for each day leading up to Christmas (yes you can make one now and the advent calendar police will not come get you for starting on December 3rd) and on each strip write down one of the names Jesus is called in the Bible, and its corresponding scripture verse.
My friend Mary sent this to me and I thought it was a brilliant idea.
Here are the names and verses:

The Son of the living God  
Mat 16:16
 His only begotten Son  
Jhn 3:16
 The Son of the Father  
1Jo 1:3
 The first-born of every creature  
Col 1:15
 His dear Son (or the Son of his love)  
Col 1:13
 The Son of the Highest  
Luk 1:32
Isa 9:6
 "This is the Son of God."  
Jhn 1:34 by John Baptist
 "The Christ, the Son of God."  
Jhn 20:31 from John, Apostle,
 "The Christ, the Son of God."  
Jhn 11:27 from Martha,
 "Thou Son of the Most High God."  
Mar 5:7 from The Legion,
    Jhn 1:1;
 The Mighty God  
Isa 9:6
 The Everlasting God  
Isa 40:28
 The True God  
1Jo 5:20
 My Lord and my God  
Jhn 20:28
 The God of the whole earth  
Isa 54:5
 God manifest in the flesh  
1Ti 3:16
 The great God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ    
                        Tts 2:13
 Emanuel, God with us  
Mat 1:23
 Jehovah, mighty in battle  
Psa 24:8
 I am  
Exd 3:14;
 The Highest  
Luk 1:76
 The Lord of Glory  
1Cr 2:8
 The King, Jehovah of Hosts  
Isa 6:5

If you can't find it in your heart to do an advent calendar at all, here is a helpful list of books you can read from for the advent season.
One of them would be a worthy purchase that would last you for the rest of your Christmases.
(This is one of my favorite blogs because it is about reading and good literature. Many of the books that are part of our school curriculum are discussed here, as well as books that are new to me.  It is a helpful blog all year long) 

In the end, I hope you experience true joy this Christmas season, not in getting or even giving lots of things, but in the knowledge that Christmas is about loving each other. 
And that is because Jesus showed us the ultimate love by coming to earth to walk among us.
Merry Christmas, friends!
Love from,


Rachel Reeves said...

It doesn't make you a Scrooge. It makes you normal.

I would suspect that the idea of fancy advent calendars stress out 95% of parents that feel they "should" be doing them.

In the end, everything that we do, that doesn't directly bring glory to Christ is just extra, so I suppose it's really about what you would rather spend your extra time doing. Baking cookies or buying trinkets.
Seems like a no brainer to me! ;)

Love your post, as usual.

Betsi* said...

Thank you, Greta!! I have been feeling the weight of a thousand Jesse trees on my shoulders this week as I tried to prepare for advent and, once again fell behind. I'm just going to stick with our tried and true printed out scriptures and candies and plenty of grace for the inevitable missed days. ;) love you

Melanie said...

I just wanted to say I love, love, love this post. It made me realize that the goal is not to do everything, but to do the important things well. Hugs!

Amy said...

I have been lurking on this blog for over a year but have never commented. Thanks for this post. I loved it. I am really curious about the link to the list of books - I think you accidentally linked to the Christmas Everywhere poem instead. Thanks!