Well, It’s that time of year when it is dark at 4:30pm, schedules are filling up with office parties and kid parties, school recitals, shopping for the fifth white elephant gift. This time of year can be hard. There is unyielding busyness, hustle, stuff to buy, bake, and wrap, and expectations from every direction. Most of us feel so much busier around the holidays due to the growing and changing dynamics with extended family and an overextended calendar. It feels like a moving target and there is no shortage of events, expectations, and money to spend!
As I began preparing for all of the fun we have at my local church, Christ Presbyterian in Nashville, Tennessee, I wondered what the lead up to Christmas felt like for the families I serve. So I reached out to about forty families to ask them what this season is like for them as parents.
Why is this so hard?
Of the families I polled, 90% of them said that the hardest part of the season is the unattainable expectations: from self, extended family, kids (presents), consumerism (more presents) and Pinterest (the perfect Christmas tree, DIY gifts and holiday cookies).
The second reason for the trickiness of the season was compounding busyness. There are shows, recitals, preschool productions, church events, office parties, neighborhood parties, decorating, shopping, and cooking. And all of this before quality time with family and friends even begins!
So many of them told me that this season starts to feel reactionary. One of the moms I polled said, “It’s the pace of the season! It seems like no matter what I try we are running at break-neck speed until Christmas morning.”
Another mom said, “It feels like we are running around like crazy but not even making eye contact or checking in with each other!” That’s not the way any of us imagine our experience leading up to Christmas to look like.
So when I ask parents what their dream scenario for this season with their family looks like, everyone I’ve talked to said they desire intentionality with their time and in terms of drawing their kids towards Christ.
So we can all see the problem, right? Our hope for our family around Christmastime comes in real tension with the snowball effect of the pace of the season, and it’s hard to know how to catch our breath and make a change.
What is Advent?
I’d love to invite you and your family to consider engaging in the season of Advent. Advent is a season observed on the church calendar as a time of waiting expectantly and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmastime and the return of Jesus at His Second Coming. It is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas. I believe this time frame and rhythm in Advent could help create intentionality and anticipation for Christ this season for your family.
So, how do we do that? Before we add any resources or family traditions, the first thing needed is to Intentionally create space. Ask the questions:
- Where can we choose to orient our calendar around Advent instead of squeezing Advent into little holes on the calendar?
- What works best for your family? What works best with your schedule? Is there a drive you know of that will provide you with ten minutes you can capture with your kids?
- Ask yourself, What works for other families? Talk to your friends about what works and doesn’t work for their families.
Anticipation = Active Waiting
The goal for Advent isn’t just the absence of other things. Other things aren’t bad. Enjoying time spent with loved ones and celebrating are not bad things at all. I think the invitation of Advent is to be intentional with our time in the waiting and preparation of Christ’s birth and return.
Model Treasuring Jesus to your kids
Talk to your kids about Jesus being the greatest gift God could have ever given to the whole world. It was to fulfill the promise He made in the garden that he would send a Savior, His one and only Son! Don’t underestimate the power and importance of modeling this for your kids. Think about the things kids love because of their parents. I loved Auburn Football long before I became an alumni, and it is because my parents watched Auburn football with me as a child. I loved loving what they loved.
Waiting is a hard concept for kids, but I think we can teach them that there is something active in waiting. We can teach them to fill that waiting with anticipating and treasuring Jesus as the greatest gift God could ever give the human race.
I love being a little part of other people’s families during the holidays. My family is hours away in Alabama, so I love the little Christmas traditions I have built with my friends’ kiddos. One activity my best friend and I do every year with our four-year-old bestie, Rachel, is build an Advent paper chain. Mom and dad get to enjoy a date night while we stay home and decorate a gingerbread house and build an Advent paper chain. We each have a job and build a colorful paper chain with twenty-four links. It is so fun to make together and we love knowing that Rachel will break one chain every single night before bed leading up to Christmas. Her parents can read her the verse and talk about it with her. Rachel is only four and looks forward to this paper chain every year. It builds in the expectation and anticipation for the morning of Christmas in their house.
You’re not in it alone
Ask other moms or dads on Sundays at your local church or come chat with a Kids Ministry leader. They would love to encourage you and point you to resources to use as a family to worship God in this season. Grab some of these and use that intentional time you carve out with your family to be together and to prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth and anticipate His return! Lastly, pray! Pray that the Holy Spirit would help guide and encourage you toward a Christmas season that is filled with celebrating Jesus’ birth and anticipating His return, as a family.
For you, families, I am praying for a peace-filled, Christ-centered holiday season for you and your children. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!