As a young mom, I had strong ideals. I yearned to figure out all the answers. I admired moms who resembled perfection and I longed for the same. High standards is a virtuous endeavor, isn’t it? Yet, high standards often back-fired as I lost sight of my purpose. What my heart really longed for was to love my children well and to help them enter into the beautiful mystery of Christ.
One Advent, years ago, I organized new traditions, and set out to teach my children what the real meaning of Christmas was. I yearned for my children to understand the reality of the season. As one author confirmed, “Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming.” Jesus is coming, and Advent is intended to be a season of preparation for His arrival. While we typically regard Advent as a joyous season, it is also intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent. Prayer, penance, and fasting are appropriate during this season.” I knew that fully entering into the Advent Season was an opportunity to grow closer to Him and anticipate His second coming one day.
Strategically, I designed the month of December with purpose, precision, and a perfect home for my platform in order to teach my children the meaning of Advent. This was my plan. It also was a set up for a crash and burn start. But I was on a mission. I needed to figure this “be a perfect mom” thing out. Although my efforts were far-fetched, they were not futile because God does honor our desires and knows our hearts. My labors had valuable intentions, which God harnessed and eventually made use of in my life. After a few crash and burn years, I realized a slower pace through Advent as well as parenting. Little did I know the slow journey through Advent wasn’t just for my children. Eventually, Advent became a season which slowly tended to my heart.
I believe God honors all our efforts, even if our motives aren’t always correct. When I learned that everything would never be “perfect,” I slowed down and took things in bite-sized chunks. What God desired was my heart-felt intentions, but mostly just my heart, and that’s what he wanted me to share with my children.
Advent’s lessons to slow down, to become expectant, to long for the coming of Christ, are completely contrary to the commercialized month of December. The month of December is crammed with lights, trees, and goodies. Are all these things wrong? Not necessarily. Maybe particular traditions you already share with your family have a deeper purpose than you realize.
We love all things Christmas, and many of the customs already implemented in our traditional Christmas have meaning. For example, the Christmas lights on homes awaken my longing for the light to shine in the darkness. Do you know the legend of the Christmas tree or the candy cane? Slowing down does not mean giving up all that you love about our commercialized Christmas.
Are you frustrated because you weren’t ready December 1st with devotions, calendars, and Jesse Tree? Whether you begin December 1, 15, or 24, you can implement more meaning and longing into this beautiful season. My all or nothing personality had to learn that if everything flopped it was okay. We don’t have to throw our hands in the air and say, “maybe next year.” Begin where you’re at…you are never too late. Ever.
Traditions are beautiful. Yet, if our hearts aren’t in the right place, they lose their immensely powerful purpose, which is to transform our hearts. I challenge you to add one simple tradition this Advent Season.
- Read an Advent Devotional (even if you start half through).
- Read a children’s book each day (or whenever) about all the lovely stories pertaining to Christmas. The Legend of Saint Nicholas, and The Legend of the Christmas Tree are a few good ones.
- Start the tradition of the Jesse Tree (yes, right now-now is better than never). This is such a simple, yet beautiful, tradition that can pass a legacy down through the ages.
- Light Advent candles at dinner and read a Scripture.
- Utilize Advent Calendars.
- Pray together as a family.
- Serve someone in need.
- Fast from one thing you know is overdone in your life (while you pray for those less fortunate).
- Instead of decorating the tree all at once, consider adding just one ornament a day leading up to Christmas. My children love this—each morning they take one ornament each out of a basket, and find a perfect spot for it.
- Consider transporting your Nativity pieces slowly throughout your home during Advent making their way to the manger on Christmas day. We tuck Baby Jesus away until his birthday.
I encourage you to start where you are, and remember that God honors all our efforts, even a zealous young mom trying to get it all right. He gently guides us to where we need to be. Advent truly can be a season which slowly tends to our hearts even in the hustle and bustle of it all. Happy Advent, friends!