Advent 2019 - Day 1

December 1 - Day 1

Here we go, here it is, Advent. I’ve got this. I’ve totally got this. We’ll be fine…

I’m not entirely sure where the worry is coming from - after all, turning the Advent season back into a time of quiet preparation should evoke less worry, not more… so step one in making Advent great again (yes, I did just say that), is prayer.

Dear God,
Thank you for all your gifts and blessings, I love you with all my heart. Please help me to quieten my mind, to let go of my worries, and to rest in the comfort of your embrace, knowing that whatever we manage to do during Advent for the preparation of the birth of Your Son is borne of our time first spent in quiet prayer with You. Help me to notice the little things, to smile at the mistakes, to embrace my family, and to prepare the way for You. I pray this through the intercession of Your Blessed Mother, Mary, and Your earthly father, Joseph - our Holy Family - whom we draw inspiration from for our own family. Amen.

**Deep breath**

Righty-o then…
For our family, the kids are a bit older with our youngest about to turn 11, and a lot of activities that I searched for were a bit… well… young! So, for this year’s Jesse Tree (I’ll explain it in a sec) I found loads of crafts and activities for the littlies, but stuff that my teen and pre-teens would do only out of pure love for their over-excitable mother (that’s me). But I think their pity and shame for me comes across as love and appreciation… I’m sure it does! My poor kids. I have to admit - the Christmas season is my favourite, and it took about 0.74 seconds to transfer the love to include the Advent season and all its reflective preparational goodness. Toeing the line (toeing - what a weird looking word!) between keeping Advent quiet and getting excited about planning all the crafts/prayers/cooking/outings/events/all.the.other.stuff is quite an artform; this year I’m putting my excessive-time-usage-on-the-doing-side-of-things down to being a rookie at all this and, like I said in yesterday’s post, being not overly skilled or quick at liturgical living.

-->  For the rookies (it’s me, I’m the rookie): Liturgical living is a fancy way (or the proper way, whatever) of saying that you are bringing elements of the tradition of our church into your home and daily life. <--

So, Advent.
Here is what our family is doing this year to prepare for Christmas and celebrate Advent:

Family Wreath
We’ve made one before, but it’s just sort of sat there looking pretty. The key to making this work is, and again the obvious may seem ridiculous to mention but nevertheless still important (for the rookies!) and a reality that I needed to come to terms with so there…, dinner together as a family at the dinner table. For a couple of bucks (a couple more for us Aussies because it’s an American site), you can download and print the Advent Wreath Prayers Printable Booklet from Catholic All Year (yes again, and y’all better get used to me referring to that website - Kendra Tierney is so inspiring as a Catholic, as a mother, as a wife, and as a beautiful woman; I just want to hug her!). Just do what it says. Pray together, eat together, stay together. Our wreath is old candles from our church, eucalyptus branches from the back of our block, and a few other shrub-style branches the kids found. I think we'll have to plant some better wreath-style plants for next year...!

Christmas Anticipation Prayer
Another cracker of a prayer - traditionally recited 15 times per day beginning on the 30th November which is the feast of St Andrew, and finishing on Christmas Eve. There are plenty of beautiful printable versions online, or make your own to print out, or get your kids to write their own out as copywork for homeschool! 15 times is a big jump for us, so I’m just working on us saying it together as part of our dinner prayers, and on homeschool days when we say our morning prayers together. Hopefully next year, when I don’t spring a thousand liturgical surprises on my kids and they know what to expect, we’ll be able to unload a solid 15 each day.

Christmas Anticipation Prayer
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
In which the Son of God was born
Of the most pure Virgin Mary,
At midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech thee, oh my God,
To hear my prayer and grant my desires,
Through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ,
And of His blessed Mother.

Christmas Family Novena
--> For the rookies - a novena is a prayer said for nine consecutive days, usually ending on the vigil (the night before) of a feast day, and said for a reason or with a particular intention. <--
So, beginning on the 16th through to the 24th, we will pray a novena together. It doesn’t have to be at night either, any time is a good time, and you can pray a decade of the Rosary each day, one Our Father, any intercessional prayers (for the rookies - the ones on the back of saint cards), or any prayer that has meaning for your family. We are having a go at one with prayers and readings!
Yet another resource from Catholic All Year, the Christmas Family Novena has everything you need to create a truly Christ-centred Advent and be fully prepared. And of course, a special treat afterwards!

Jesse Tree.
So, in a liturgical nutshell, the Jesse Tree activity covers salvation history from Creation to the Nativity with cool little ornaments and associated bible verses, and there are sooooooo many different options available! We’ve decided (I decided) to make ours instead of purchase a set, partially because I’ve got about as much spare cash as a used care salesman, and partially because of the whole over-excited mother forcing kiddie activities on kids that aren’t really little kids anymore (waaah!) but still wanting to craft and pretend they're tiny and dependent...

**For younger kids, check out Catholic Sprouts, and Holy Heroes for beautiful Jesse Tree products!**

I made a fabric drawstring bag, and in it is: tools and things required to make a tree ornament, a bauble with a key bible verse glued to it, a card for further reading, and a task card. The kids take turns to open the bag each day, and thanks to all the angels and saints and the good Lord himself, three kids and 24 days in Advent this year gives me a perfect 8 days per kid - and another 360 odd days to figure out next year’s bag-opening-order-thing.

Here is our day 1:

Today’s theme is Creation, and the ornament is a world globe. In the bag I put green and blue paint, a paint brush, and a bauble (a red one to be specific, the paint needed a couple of layers to cover it properly, but my daughter just rested the bauble on an egg cup - genius!). 

The ornament for Creation.

The key bible verse is glued to a bauble (because I own a zillion of them!)
"God looked at everything He has made, and He found it very good." - Genesis 1:31

And the further reading card is: Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-4. 
Whoever's turn it is to open the bag, has to do the further reading and then tell us all about it over breakfast/lunch/dinner/snack time... whenever you find a bit of time. You can also use the Action Bible (comic book bible, check it out here, it's so great! No it's not a Catholic bible, but the illustrations are phenomenal!) or any other storytelling bible, as long as it covers the theme (creation).

With our task cards, each day has a simple task to get ready for Christmas, and a Work of Mercy task (inspired by Ginny at Not So Formulaic - I simply wanted to adjust the daily instruction to what we were going to be doing as a family, so it takes into account when we are visiting family and when family are visiting us, and other events that are happening around our town. Definitely head over and check out Ginny’s blog - the way she writes about faith and children is so encouraging!).

So, that's what we're doing, God help us! What you need to remember though, regardless of what you attempt to do during Advent, is that as long as you keep family, joy, and of course God at the centre of your plans, you can't go wrong! Hug your little ones (and medium ones and big ones!) tightly, pray fervently, and smile at the bazillion beautiful things each day around you.

Making fruit mince, preparing a roast for Sunday family dinner, and crafting for the Jesse Tree.

Til next time, God Bless you and your wonderful family!

Em xx

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