As I write this we are approaching Advent, which starts on November 27 and takes us through a period of preparation for Christmas. All around me it seems the rest of the world is already getting ready for Christmas!
There are Christmas decorations up at work and places I visit. There are countdowns and reminders to get your Christmas shopping done. Bookings for end of year functions are coming in.
This time of year is suffocatingly overwhelming for many of us. So much to pack in before the end of the year, on top of the normal duties of mothering, running a household and work.
For us the end of year will mark a milestone with one child moving on from primary school to college. He has had three years at our local state primary school and it has been an absolute blessing for our family. The love and kindness from the staff and community has been so much appreciated.
He is moving to a Catholic college so we are pleased and relieved that faith formation will be continued and supported on a daily basis at school. We also have one child facing an operation before the end of the year so this is going to be an even more challenging time than usual.
The school is encouraging giving and generosity on a weekly basis, asking for donations which go to the Auckland City Mission every week, with a theme each week to guide us. I think this gets you into the gifting spirit and is a good reminder that Christmas should be about giving and not receiving.
Christmas has become all about gifts and shopping and spending, or at least it seems to me that way. It certainly places a huge financial strain on a lot of families which is not welcome with current inflation and mortgage rate hikes.
Advent calendars are a lovely way of preparing. I made a cloth one years ago, mounted on wood with a pocket for all 24 days and a Christian theme on the fabric. With four children it’s hard to know how to manage it. I’d love to hear how other people do it!
I don’t really want each child starting the day with a lolly or chocolate. I’ve seen some lovely ideas of slips of paper in each pocket to say, for example, “I will spend a few extra minutes in prayer today”, “I will do a random act of kindness today” or “I will find a toy to donate to someone in need”.
You can get any type of commercial advent calendar you want know. Chocolate seems to be somewhat traditional – now there are wine and gin calendars, coffee and tea calendars and Advent calendars for pets!
For us, keeping sight of the true meaning of Christmas can come in all the small things. Being patient. Being charitable. Dropping comparisons. Being grateful. Being prayerful. Being reflective. Putting prayer first. Being sensible with spending and purchasing.
Make sure you plan when you are attending Sunday Mass over the holidays. Often people are away and aren’t sure where to go or what times are available. If you are spending time with people who don’t attend church this can be difficult to prioritise and going to Mass is a witness to our faith in that situation.
There are lots of traditions that can remind us about our faith in Advent – we enjoy having an Advent wreath on the table with candles and a nativity set. These sorts of visual reminders are as important for the kids as they are for the adults. For me, a daily Bible reading is on my list of Advent activities to help me focus on faith as we head into Christmas.
2 Corinthians 8:9 ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so they you by his poverty might become rich’.