Santa is coming, presents are being considered and wrapped, CHRISTMAS is coming! Christmas is when we gather as a Christian family to celebrate the coming of God. In the rush to do make it a memorable occasion for those we love we can sometimes forget that Jesus is the reason for the season. God loves us so much that he sent his own Son to live among us, in order to show how to live life to its fullest. So as we get ready for this special time, let us take some time to prayerfully prepare to welcome Christ among us. Merry Christmas everyone!
Reversing the Ordinary
There is something special about the Advent Season. Things are not quite the same. In Church the colours have changed and we are hearing stories about promise, salvation and waiting in a new way. Advent calendars have become part of the ordinary, often commercial preparation for Christmas and often involve Chocolate – and Santa’s or Barbie or Batman or… and not the Jesus Story. In order to bring back that sense of the Sacred the sense of waiting for Emmanuel God-with-us, Jesus who challenges us to be missionary, to reach out for others how about considering a ‘different’ way to count-down the days till Christmas.
Instead of the ‘classical’ and very much ‘commercialized’ (buy+consume) Advent Calendars found in shops – try this year a Reverse Advent Calendar : refocusing from ‘receiving’ to ‘giving’. Each day it’s not you being ‘gifted’ (with a ‘chocolate’ or similar) but it’s you collecting gifts for those in need.
The idea is to get an empty box/basket and put one item for your local Food Bank into it every day. You could do this for 24 days to mirror the Advent Calendar or even a whole month. It’s a great way to show children that Christmas is also about giving. You can also get them involved in the project by asking them to decorate the box and making their own ‘contributions’.
For a lot of people, Christmas is a time of excess and indulgence – but for many it is a delicate time in an on-going struggle for necessities, while trying to bring a cheer and a smile of the festive time…..
- set a starting date (doesn’t need to be 1st of Dec, you can start anytime now- so that the Food Bank can receive your donations well before Christmas),
- set a ‘collecting basket/box’ somewhere visible for yourself/the whole whanau/school/work-place…,
- start making the ‘counting the days till Christmas’ meaningful.
Food items for the Food Bank – the mainstay
Regular foodstuffs include basics such as baked beans, tinned soups, rice and pasta – non-perishable & healthy-food items that last and are easily stored and distributed. Remember toiletries and sanitary products too. Over Christmas, there’s certainly scope to broaden what you give. Fresh fruit and vegetables remain tricky, but chocolate, biscuits, and cakes are possible. You could include books-toys-DVDs and small gift-like items too….
Just imagine if we could get 500 people collecting food boxes for 25 days. That would be 12,500 extra items of food for those in need.
But you can also broaden your range and ‘collect’:
- Bonds and /pledges for ‘actions & action days’ that you will be offering to someone (like helping someone with gardening, chores and tasks)
- Commitments to works of charity (like visiting the sick, imprisoned, lonely….)
- Offering prayers for ……
- …… – your own ideas
There is something for everyone 🙂
The reverse advent calendars are small acts of kindness that add up to a massive difference for vulnerable people.
Explore the relationship between Advent and Christmas in this great little video. As it says, it only takes 2 minutes and then you can talk about what you saw and heard.
The video below is another reminder of why we have this special time called Advent.
During Advent we hear many titles given to Jesus. This video explains their meaning and significance.
The Advent Wreath
Create a Family Advent Faith Pilgrimage
Advent provides a great opportunity for young people to take ownership for their faith formation. As a family, spend time sharing how everyone can choose their own path of spiritual development during Advent.
- Explore Family Faith and other resources for ideas
- Brainstorm additional things that can be done each day.
- Create your own Reverse Advent Calendar as suggested above.
An Advent Prayer Garden
Looking for something a little bit different to celebrate the great season of Advent? Why not create an Advent Prayer Garden with the family!
Advent Tree of Kindness
You could also consider creating an Advent Tree of Kindness to help the family to prepare for Jesus’ coming by doing good deeds for others.
Materials per child (or do a large family version)
- One sheet of A4 red paper
- One sheet of A4 green paper
- One sheet of colored star stickers
- List of good deeds
- Ask the children to brainstorm good deeds they can do for others and write them on a list.
- Have the children cut out a Christmas tree from the green construction paper.
- Have them glue the tree onto the red paper.
- Pass out the stickers.
- Explain to all of the family that they are to put a star on their tree after they do a good deed for someone else. (Deeds can come from the list or from their own imaginations.)
- Remember the adults participate also.
- Once a week, perhaps over dinner for the rest of Advent, ask the children to share any good deeds they may have done.
Especially for the Senior Members of the Family (Teens and Parents)
Fr Robert Barron offers free Advent reflections and other resources.
Be Watchful! Be Alert! You do not know when the time will come.