The countdown has begun! Every year, Sis and I would open a little window on an Advent calendar to reveal a Christmas picture or Bible verse. We took turns as we marked off the days until December 25 arrived. The waiting was seemingly unbearable, but something about the Advent calendar made it better.
As I had children, I continued this tradition in my own home. The calendar designers took it up a notch and added chocolate to their chambers. My boys took turns opening the tiny flaps, revealing a delicious treat inside. Although they are now in their 20s, they still take part in the annual Advent calendar. Now they compete to see who is first to get the candy. You snooze, you lose. My boys will make anything into a game. At least they're participating.
The word "advent" literally means "the coming into place, view, or arrival of a notable person, thing, or event." Christians celebrate this by lighting a candle each of the four Sundays leading up to the Christ candle on Christmas Eve. In Mexico, they reenact Mary and Joseph's journey to find a place to stay during Los Posadas. In the Philippines, star-shaped lanterns are hung on homes to symbolize the star of Bethlehem during Misas de Aguinaldo. In Eastern Europe, young Polish boys dress up as bishops and beg for money to give to the poor on St. Nicolas Day. I've seen may friends post pictures of choir programs, family gatherings, and charitable giving to celebrate the season. No matter where you live, Advent is being celebrated in some way.
Any large event requires planning and preparation. I've never been to a beautiful wedding that was thrown together in a couple of hours. My sons' birthday parties took months to orchestrate. My students never performed a musical without practicing long in advance. My dad used to say, "anything worth doing is worth doing well." He never directed an average Living Christmas Tree. He worked on it for 11 months every year to ensure that the choir presented something of worth to the community and to the Lord for His birthday. The reason I'm often called "extra" is partially due to his influence, but shouldn't Christmas be "extra"?
Yes I started early. My boys playfully made fun of me, but they've had to live with my 'extra' their entire lives. Hub has learned to stay in the man cave and give words of encouragement from time to time. He even did a little cheer for me the other day. (If I'd known it was coming, I would've taken a video. It was hilarious.) My reason for the extra effort is simple: it's worth it.
How do you celebrate Advent? Although the big birthday isn't until the 25th, the season of waiting has arrived. Advent should not only prepare your home for the main event, but your heart. Don't get discouraged, there's still time! Try and do ONE "extra" thing today for Advent. It may be as simple as giving out an encouraging word, singing Christmas carols in the car, or buying an Advent calendar. May your heart be touched with an extra dose of joy and wonder as we anticipate Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.