Monday, November 30, 2009
Any Advent traditions?
I think that sometimes God gives you those weeks from "H-E-Double Hockey Sticks"...just so that you hear Him a little louder. :)When I can't sleep and the fears come, I have to say...that is when I feel His arms around me the best.
Tonight we started our Advent celebration like we have for the last 7 or 8 years. I thought for sure this would be the year the kids wouldn't want to do it, as they are getting older and it is kind of a cheesy thing- but to my pleasant surprise, they both asked ME if we could. And it was just what I needed. God is so amazing like that.
We spend every night of the weeks of Advent with a prayer, reading one of three books by Arnold Ytreeide, and going to bed by candlelight with a Christmas carol on our lips. The series started out with Jotham's Journey, then went to Bartholemew's Passage, and concluded (unfortunately) with Tabitha's Travels. We rotate the stories each year, and this year we are chillin' with Tabitha.
I can't say enough about how neat these books are (there is a blog post from last year regarding it too). The first week you light one candle on your advent wreath and follow these ordinary Hebrew children through some extraordinary situations. Each night leaves you on a cliff hanger, and the collective groan from my 6 and 7 year olds (and now my 14 year old)was always my favorite part. The story ends abruptly each night and the book goes in to the devotional. They literally COULD NOT WAIT for the next installment the following night. This continues, with each Sunday before Christmas letting you light one more candle, so by Christmas Eve, 4 candles are blazing and the mood and atmosphere has gone from dreary, dark and scary to full of expectation and excitement. Then, Christmas morning- you get to light the last candle and conclude the story...and SPOILER WARNING...all three books concluding in a manger in Bethlehem. So cool! Our kids never complained or wanted to open presents first thing Christmas morning, they hurry out to the coffee table to light the candles and see what happened to their "story" friends. It makes Christmas morning so much more fun.
The author does a fantastic job of bringing in the culture and lifestyles of Hebrews during the time of Jesus's birth with humor, tradition, and excitement. Lots of sword fighting, jackals and near misses for your boys, and family love and tears for your girls. I don't want to give anymore away, but if you have never heard of these books- consider borrowing one from me or buying Jotham's Journey on Amazon and trying it out this year. Steve and I love them as much as the kids do. (It specifically tells the adults not to read ahead the first year, and let the excitement build...I of course, failed at patience and read all the books through the minute the kids got to bed! Muahahahaha!)
Tonight we had a couple of guests, as two daughters of a friend of mine are staying with us...and as I watched them bow their heads to pray, listen to the story, and then walk to bed by candlelight singing "We Three Kings" and "Silent Night", I couldn't help but smile. God is so faithful to us...in all our darkness and sin, He brought a single, burning, bright Light into our world that will never dull or go out. Oh, thank you, Father for that.
The ending devotion from the book tonight said it best, and this is my prayer for you, friends- "Advent is a time for us to focus on the real Jesus of Scripture, a time to get rid of our own ideas about who He is and what He should do for us. It's a time to learn from Him how to be servants, to be humble, to love." (Arnold Ytreeide, Tabitha's Travels, page 15) No matter how much worse this week gets...I am not going to forget the blessing of Advent,I won't forget the excitement that comes with the expectation and celebration of the birth of my Savior and Friend.