"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.
As they rejoice before you as at the harvest,
as people make merry when dividing the spoils.
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.
From David's throne, and over his kingdom,
which confirms and sustains by judgement and justice,
both now and forever." Is 9:1-2, 5-6
The baby is fascinated by the flame of the candles and we need to be vigilant so he does not set himself on fire. The three year old and five year old fidget through passages of Isaiah, waiting for the short Nativity stories they read from tiny ornament-books that are then hung on a tiny Christmas tree near our prayer area . The children are also biding their time until the candles are blown out. Who gets to place the ornament on the tree and who gets to blow out the candles are of great importance, and woe to my husband and I if we have not made clear whose turn it is beforehand (this happens way more often than it should)! After the little book is hung on the little tree we sing a verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel, and this step cannot be skipped no matter how late it is!
It is very easy for me to believe that these rituals are unnecessary and burdensome while I am dealing with fidgety, tired and sometimes bickering children. The younger ones don't yet understand some of those fancy and archaic words from the prophets! But this is Advent, the season where we are told to watch and be prepared for the coming of the Lord, who came to us so long ago in the most unexpected way. In fact, often when I have been graced by a powerful encounter with the Lord, it has come upon me in mundane, unexpected and ordinary ways; moments when I have endured in what, at the time, felt like meaningless and uninspired duties or prayers.
And every year as Advent approaches the kids become excited for the rituals and the readings. They associate the complex passages from Isaiah, or the Advent stations from the Magnificat, with the eager and joyful expectation of Christmas! They do not understand it all with their intellect yet (and who of us does fully understand the magnitude of the Incarnation?). However, they are beginning to develop the wonder and awe at the Lord's coming at Christmas, which with persistence and endurance will transcend the gifts and decorations, and open their eyes to the coming of the Lord in other ways!
In fact, the Advent prayers and readings we have done year after year have rooted the wonder and awe at the coming of Jesus as a baby more deeply into my children's memories of past Christmases than the actual receiving of the presents from Santa that they so joyfully wait for! And this creates a deeper yearning for Jesus' presence in all aspects of life! Maybe they will not so easily overlook Jesus' presence in the poor, the hungry, those who are afflicted or who are outsiders!
So let us joyfully light a candle! Jesus is coming!
Peace and Grace,
I was just reading on the blog Conversion Diary about epic Advent failures! I just had to add, that even in our failures to cultivate an Advent devotion that becomes a cherished tradition, the effort to show our children that the joy of Christmas is Jesus can be a seed planted in their hearts. They will still learn that the excitement around Christmas is only superficially about presents and Santa, and Christmas will always, even in times that are sorrowful or difficult, have a profound and mysterious joy to it. Some of my epic failures in Advent devotions have come up in conversations years later, and I have found to my surprise, that at least one on my kids was impacted by it in some way; in some way it began to root inside their heart that they deeply desire the Advent of the Lord!