I’ve finally settled into a nice routine with our daily Advent activities. For a while, I felt like I was floundering, trying to fit everything in, yet trying not to cram it all into the same 30 minutes every day!
The first thing Turkey and Bunny do each morning, right after they get up, is open the door on their Lego Advent Calendar. Now, I realize that this is a secular calendar, and isn’t technically an “Advent” calendar, but rather a “Count-the-days-in-December-leading-up-to-Christmas” calendar, but I still think it’s useful. They’re working on being patient and waiting, (a main theme of Advent), which, around here, and especially with Legos, is no small thing. They’re only allowed to open one door each day, there’s no peeking ahead…they have to wait. So, even though Lego’s dates may not match the church’s, it is still a useful tool during the season of Advent. (We’re also doing something similar with paper chains we made, which also don’t count down all of the days in Advent, because I didn’t get my act together soon enough!)
First thing after breakfast, we do our Jesse Tree. This involves a Scripture reading, (or, on some days, readings), a reading from the Jesse Tree book, and the hanging of the ornament on the tree. This needs to be done right away after breakfast to make sure we have time for it before I have to take Moose to school. I actually like this so much, I may try to do our daily religion lessons at this time, even after Advent. I always feel bad that he has to miss out on religion time, (even though he does have plenty of other Bible exposure here at home), and if we can be dedicated, I think that this is at least one part of our school that he can be a part of.
After Moose is taken to his school, we have our school time, which always has some kind of Christmas component, in addition to regular schoolwork. This may included additional Bible readings, (and copywork/dictation/handwriting practice of those readings), the reading of Bible storybooks, reading other Christmas books, and a craft of some sort. These activities can be more secular in nature–we read classic Christmas stories such as the Grinch, in addition to Bible stories, and while some of our crafts may have a Bible-theme, like handprint angels, some are just for fun, like beaded ornaments and wreaths. But, in addition to learning, we’re still preparing for Christmas in some way, even when doing our schoolwork.
Right after Moose gets home from school, we do our day’s reading from Tabitha’s Travels, (or Jotham’s Journey or Bartholomew’s Passage, depending on the year). This was the thing I always struggled with the most. Ideally, according to the book, it should be done at Advent wreath time, and I really tried to make it work. There were two problems with this, however. First, the children’s attention span for the reading, (which lasts about 20 minutes or so each day), plus evenings prayers was being stretched way too thin. In addition, if we did the full prayers and reading while the Advent candles were lit, there’s no way the candles would last through the season! I’ve also tried doing the reading after prayers, before bed, but by then, especially on late nights after midweek worship or whatever other Christmas activity we have, we’re all too tired to care. So, after school works out the best. To be frank, Moose probably wouldn’t mind missing out on this reading, but it’s important to me that he be here for it, so I don’t do it earlier in the afternoon, even though I could.
Our last Advent activity of every day, (except Wednesdays, when we have the midweek service at church), is the lighting of the Advent Wreath, and the saying of prayers. This is the one time of year where we make sure we make time for “long prayers;” the rest of the year, we often allow ourselves to be too rushed, and often just do a short family prayer. In addition to the prayers, we also sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” every night as the candles are being lit, and often sing the Doxology at the end of the prayers, just before the candles are snuffed out.
I’m really happy with our Advent rituals, as they’ve developed over the years. It’s something we look forward to all year-long, it’s familiar and comforting when we begin doing these things at the beginning of every Advent season, and it really helps us keep our focus on Christ as we get closer to Christmas, even with all of the busyness of the season. And spreading things out through the day helps make it a constant reminder of why we celebrate Advent, and keeps us from getting burnt out from trying to do it all at once every day!