A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
For me, Advent is this verse, Isaiah 40:3–clearing the way for the Lord, smoothing the highway in the desert. In a season that is often over-commercialized, hyped beyond anyone’s expectations, this is it. Clearing a way for Him. Smoothing the desert or wasteland of the world. Loving Him. Preparing myself for His coming.
My children look forward to this every year. It’s a big deal at our house. Last week I heard them discussing who was going to get to open the last door of The Advent Book on Christmas morning, trying to remember who got to do it the last previous years. We started a long time ago, when we only had one child. My brother-in-law, who is a preacher, was astonished to hear my two-year old recite from memory almost the entire account of the birth of Christ. When you hear it everyday, a little at a time, it is hidden in your heart.
We started simply. A prayer, a Christmas carol (just one a week with wee ones), four candles, and a book. That was it. For a two-year old, that’s all we needed and it was a good place to start. We had pink, purple and white candles as some wreaths traditionally use, but we didn’t really even talk about the symbolism of the candles. Just the candles, a song and the story. That’s all you really need. We moved up to a circular wreath a few years later. Just plain and wooden and I decorated it with greenery and ribbon. The candles made a lovely spiral by the end of the month. A few years ago I received one of Ann Voskamp’s son’s Cradle to Cross wreaths that we use during Advent and Lent as well. I love it. Very simple, with Mary on a donkey circling her way around. It all culminates on Christmas morning. After we open our stockings and have breakfast, we light the wreath, sing, and open the book for the last time. Because this door is only opened once, it seems even more exciting to our kids. It’s a beautiful way to usher in Christmas!
We still use The Advent Book. In addition, after Advent, we read other books as well. Jotham’s Journey was exciting to read, as well as the sequels in following years. It’s a story of a boy who ends up in Bethlehem and witnesses what happened there. There are all kinds of stories you can read to add another layer to Advent. One of my favorites is an anthology of stories and poems, A Christmas Treasury of Yuletide Stories and Poems edited by James Charlton. The book belonged to my great-grandfather, and I love to sit down with a cup of tea and a candle and dive in. It seems to be out of print, but you can get them, starting at a penny on Amazon. I have a link in my Amazon store, along with lots of other lovely books.
Some of my fondest memories of my children’s childhood is Advent. They aren’t perfect. There’s been arguing about who gets to light the candles, pick the song, turn the page (I have 4 kids!). There’s been wiggly babies and toddlers, sick kids, you name it, it’s happened. But it’s worth doing. Start to think now about Advent and what you want to make it in your home.