Sometimes, it feels as if the world is saying Hurry up! Advent says, slow down. Although it seems as if the world is in full Deck the Halls mode, Advent says, let’s keep it simple. Although it takes some doing to guide the mood away from frazzled and stressed to calm and quiet, it really is worth it. Advent involves low-key and simple traditions that serve to gently turn our heads towards an empty manger, our hearts towards Someone who is coming again.

I am often tempted to turn Advent (and Christmas, for that matter) into a big Pinterest-worthy extravaganza. It usually doesn’t work. I suspect that the Holy Spirit is reminding me that, at its heart, Advent is about making room in my heart for Jesus who is coming. Making room implies less, not more. Less stuff, less things on the schedule. Less means that I might hear voice calling out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the Lord! Make his paths straight!’

The Advent Wreath

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[left] November 30; [right] December 1; Sigh. Candles don’t usually fit into candle-holders, right? For now, the only one that needs to be standing is the first week.

The candles of an Advent Wreath are a beautiful and quiet way to mark the days leading up to Christmas. Last year, we made a super cool Advent wreath made out of everyone’s hands traced and cut out of green paper. I had great hopes for making a similar one this year, every since the lady at the local religious goods store upsold me some Advent candles a full TWO WEEKS before the season started. I had so much time! Well, here we are, a week into Advent, and I believe we’ve cut out a grand total of five hands. Not quite enough to make a wreath. We may give up and try to purchase one. Or not. The kids are so awe-inspired by lit candles that they may not remember/notice that there was actually no wreath beneath them in 2013.

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Given the baby crawling around enthusiastically foiling our craft attempts, this was a big accomplishment.

Sometimes, the prayer that we use when we light the Advent candle before saying Grace is not handy (read: lost) and we’ve adopted a new tradition of singing the refrain of O Come Divine Messiah. Short and sweet.

The Jesse Tree

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They’re not lost!

Because our nine-year old is a gift, she’s taken it upon herself to keep this tradition going, despite her parents’ lack of involvement. (God gave her to us first because he thought we would need someone that came pre-parented as our first born.) On the first Sunday of Advent, we all read the Creation Story and ceremoniously placed the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil on the lowest branch of the Jesse Tree. Our evenings since then have been more than a little hectic and I noticed today that she’s put up the the next few symbols (Noah = the ark, Abraham = a tent, Isaac = a ram, Jacob = a ladder). The ladder symbol is on the tree but do the little kids remember who Jacob is? Probably not. Hopefully we will get a moment to address that at some point, before they leave home.

The Nativity Sets

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The pretty one out of reach

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The Toddler-friendly one on the living room floor

Both the ceramic Baby Jesus and the plastic one are hidden away. I hope I remember where I placed them in time for Christmas.

Here’s wishing you a calm and quiet Advent. Or even small bits of calm and quiet in Advent, whatever you can scrounge together during what can be an intensely busy time. We do what we can. God really does give us what we need when we need it and he has our families, yours and mine, in his loving heart.