Beautiful Ritual

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My husband came home on Monday after 10 days! After 10 long days of flu, triple quarantine, an abscess that turned into a staff infection (and changed the shape of my nose), two trips to urgent care and some wacky emotional side effects from the strong antibiotics, the storm came to a halt this chilly Monday morning. Just in time to go pick up Daddy from the airport.

We walked in the door and before I could hang my coat up, he was already passed out on the bed! He slept all afternoon monday and I’ve been snatching extra sleep here and there, recovering from the craziest 10 days of single-parenting.

Our family is ready for some time at home for Christmas holidays!

Our Makeshift Advent Plate

As followers of Christ, celebrating His coming to earth in human form so that we might know Him--know God-– is a pretty precious holiday tradition.

But on occasion I find myself disappointed in our lack of focus during this time.  The season seems reduced to twinkle lights and gift-giving… and nothing much in between. When my Hindu friends celebrate a festival like Diwali, there are thousands of little traditions leading up to the final holiday, involving family, food, decor, shopping, staying in, going out, fasting, feasting, prayers and gift-giving. With all of the extra traditions, one is constantly reminded that a special festival is here.

I reason that it’s my own lack of intentionality that’s left our little family bereft of traditions, but as I sat in a flu-induced funk last week I thought of Advent. While in India a friend had introduced us to the tradition of Advent, lighting the next of the four candles once a week and meditating on the first and second coming of Christ. She invited a number of her neighbors and friends regardless of their religious background, and many of us were deeply impacted by these moments of sacred focus during the Christmas season.

I find myself longing for more of these rituals– patterns that repeat and root us to the Source of our celebration.

So I set up a simple advent tradition in our home, and just started late with the second week. The kids and I began on Sunday morning before breakfast. We lit the first two candles, and talked about the meaning of advent– waiting for Christ to come.  Then we listened to “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and they were captivated by the candles and meaning of it all. When we did it again the next morning, they were eager to repeat our new tradition.

Suddenly the season didn’t seem as meaningless.

Sometimes we resist tradition for tradition’s sake, not wanting to be stiff or perfunctory.  But we can just as easily miss the beauty of patterns that serve as flashing lighthouses, calling us home through unknown waters.

“We’re waiting for Jesus’ birthday!” says Little Miss, whose most valuable and challenging lesson right now is how to wait.  It’s painful and dramatic for a two year old.  The wait to open our gifts or the wait to eat the gumdrops off the gingerbread house (let’s be honest– most of them didn’t make it onto the house anyway).

Yet the tradition of waiting is deeply impactful, and the lesson that we long and wait for Jesus and His coming is not lost on this two year old today.

I love celebrating Christmas with these two small ones, soaking it in and peppering us with questions.  And as we trace the patterns of Christmas traditions together, the lines get stronger and keep us coming back to Jesus, who left perfection to come and allow mankind to know and experience His love.

I’ll be looking for more patterns in the living today.

“In a profound way, our intentionality is a key ingredient determining whether we notice God everywhere or only in church or only in suffering or nowhere. It all depends on how we choose to fashion our world.” (Elizabeth Dreyer, Earth Crammed with Heaven)


  • Jackie nahuel

    Beautiful!!! I am starting late with an Advent tradition also. I love to be able to reflect and experience the waiting together as a family.

    Reply

    • Rebecca Post author

      Absolutely. And considering we light the candles and sing EVERY day, it’s totally worth starting late. Wishing you a merry Christmas season Jackie and to Jeremy too!

      Reply

  • SKL

    What a wonderful tradition to give your children! It’s amazing that lighting a few candles can become such a powerful space to reflect and savor together the coming of Emmanuel. Ritual becomes the safe-guard against a materialistic holiday season.

    Reply

  • Barbara

    Rebecca,
    I am glad you are setting up traditions – children love them and years later look back with fondness on those precious times.
    I have learned to do things to make memories (traditions) and so our life has become richer as we have introduced the festivals and celebrations Jesus would have celebrated here on earth. Last evening we lighted the first of the 8 candles on the menorah – using the central candle – which is called “the Helper”. So wonderful to think of the Holy Spirit, who Christ sent to be our Helper after He returned to heaven. The Helper is the highest and central candle. As we light the candles, we worship Christ the light, born to bring light to our dark world. Blessings!

    Reply

  • Samuel Inman

    Making me want to start this today.

    Reply

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