I am thrilled to be participating in BethAnne’s Advent Blog Hop today, thanks for stopping by! Stay awhile and look around! And if you did’t come from BethAnne’s, and want more advent posts to read, look out the many wonderful blogs she has connected through her Blog Hop
We are almost there… the end of Advent us just about upon us and Christmas is so close you can surely taste it… Maybe you are looking back and realizing how wonderful it was that you put all that effort into Jesse Trees, and candles and wreaths, your Children are talking continuously about Jesus’ upcoming birthday (and not about wants and presents and stockings) and you can really see the difference it made to keep things simple, the peace descends over your house like a dove… or on the other hand maybe you’re feeling guilty because only the first one or two purple candles ever got lit, and the sticks that were supposed to be a Jesse Tree have been long forgotten and used as swords one to many times, maybe you are wondering why you are working so hard to force grumpy tired children to keep silent and pray those seemingly endless moments each evening after Christmas concerts and dinners out and way to many candy canes.. Does it seem futile? Because it is not.
I just want to encourage every one of you, whether your Jesse Tree is filled and the anticipation is palpable, or if you are tired and discouraged and just want it to be done and to not have to sweep up one more pine needle. I want to remind us all that these efforts are working toward the long term goals we have for our families and our children, and I am living proof that in the long run, they can really pay off.
Although my family growing up always tried to live our faith, mass every Sunday, Grace before most meals, the one time I could count on prayer together as a family was each evening of Advent.
One year my mom read something about doing a Advent Log instead of a wreath, instead of the 4 candles for the Sundays of Advent, there was a candle for each day (sometimes up to 28!) in holes my dad had drilled into a massive bough from the tree in our old back yard. This became our main Advent tradition.
The house would be totally dark, maybe just Christmas lights coming in through the windows, we would take turns lighting first 1, then 2, 3, 4, eventually dozens of candles. The candle light in the house went from barely a flickering light, dad struggling and squinting to read the bible passage or prayer or reflection from a booklet, but by the end of advent, the candle light was equivalent to a bonfire, blazing, you could barely tell the the lights were off! My mom would say something about Jesus, the light of the world being almost here. We would sing advent hymns, O Come O Come Emmanuel way too many times, and lead a prayer, each person, youngest to oldest. I remember clapping interiorly when someone would pick the Glory Be as their prayer, and cringe when my dad would chose something endless and insufferably long like the Nicene Creed, or worst of all, led spontaneous prayers… then you had no idea how long they would go for (I was far from a perfect child) we would close with singing a hymn together, looking forward to Christmas eve when we could sing, squeel, and dance to our favourite song, Children Run Joyfully
(something kinda like this, but higher pitch and 6 girls in unison)
Along with the log, I remember some years doing paper Jesse Tree ornaments, other years we tried moving the wise men close and closer to the crèche and Nativity scene each day, or waiting til Christmas eve to (get and) decorate our tree. Sometimes we would read from books or devotionals in addition to our round robin of prayers, one year my dad even led an examination of conscience, asking questions and pausing so each person could answer them silently and then ask the Lord for forgiveness. Another year I think we tried to pray the rosary together after the advent prayers, by the light of the candles (I think we had to stop, or at least blow out the candles because they were burning out too soon).
The one thing that was constant was that we were all praying, together, as a family, every year. Even during college it was something I didn’t want to miss, and people avoided making plans outside the house in the evening. Instead of going out, we would invite people in. We would do it with whoever was over at our house, friends, boyfriends, neighbours, extended family, everyone who was there was welcome to lead a prayer at their turn in the rotation.
Looking back, this strong example of making prayer as a family a priority was so important to me. The memories of hearing my dad praying aloud for us and with us are so meaningful. To hear aunts, uncles, and friends who maybe never prayed, except for those evenings they happened to be at our house was very crucial. Instead of thinking we were weird, overly pious or strange, people would always comment that it was so special, beautiful, and they still ask me “does your family still do that advent log thing?”
I admire my parents for trying, year after year, to make what was at first I am sure a ambitious goal, into a life long tradition. I am glad they allowed some things to change with the years as we grew and our needs changed, but kept one or two things constant and dependable. I am thankful that they took advantage of the pre-Christmas magic to build this tradition on. Attempts at similar traditions during lent for example seemed to never catch on, but there is something so special at Christmas, on those long dark evenings, that some candles and hymns and togetherness can break through.
I know it was frustrating some times for my parents, grumpy or rebellious teens would resist participating, or seem very insincere in their prayers, but they persevered! And that perseverance is I think what really made a difference.
So no matter how you think this Advent has gone for your family, whether it was all you expected and more, or if now you are maybe thinking you could have done more, know that there is no way to measure the uncountable graces that God blesses for our efforts, big and small to bring our family to the closer to the Lord.
I am praying for special Christmas graces to all of you who read this. I pray that you are blessed beyond measure when that Babe is laid in the the manger on Christmas morn.
And as per Advent traditions and Jesse Trees and wreaths and candles and any other ideas pinterest may have put in your mind… there is always next year! Take advantage of the last few nights you have before Christmas eve, pray with and for your family in whatever way you can, and know your little efforts, with perseverance, can bear great fruit!
Big thank you to my dad who scoured the hard drives to these pictures of our family and the Advent Log.