Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Enjoy Christmas for a Whole Month

After our Thanksgiving dinner, I’d no sooner packed our leftovers into containers for the fridge, when my daughter said, “Let’s put up the Christmas tree tomorrow!”

“What?” I said. “I need a day or two to recover. I don’t know if I’m ready for Christmas yet.”

Now a few days have passed, and I’m beginning to smile again as I think of decorations and candles.

At the same time, I have to admit that Christmas is a mixed bag for cross-cultural workers.
December is a busy month for church and ministry activities, so it can be hard to make time to celebrate with our families.   When we spend Christmas on the field, we miss friends and family back home. However, when we’re home on furlough during Christmas, I find myself resisting the materialistic lure of shopping and gifts. I miss the simple sweetness of celebrating Jesus’ birth with a few precious Turkish believers who know Him.  Wherever I am, Christmas is a time when I want to focus on spiritual celebration.

My favorite Christmas tradition is the advent wreath. 

It’s the focal point of our family’s holiday season.  We light our wreath not just on Sundays, but on every evening during the Christmas season. We take about ten minutes to light the candles, sing a carol, read scripture, and pray together.  We started this tradition back when our kids were small and fought over who got to light and blow out the candles.  Our favorite songs were “Away in a Manger” and “What Child is this?” Today our teenagers still look forward to this every evening (and sometimes they still fight over who gets to blow out the candles).

Observing advent helps our family to:

Create and Preserve Family Tradition

Observing this simple custom every night in December year in and year out brings stability to our family whether we’re in Turkey or in the US for Christmas. It helps to ease the longing I feel for extended family and traditions from my childhood at this time of year. It also gives me something to pass on to my children that they will remember.

Focus on Family

During the busy Christmas season, it helps us to stay focused on celebrating as a family. No matter how harried the day was, most evenings we enjoy a moment of family togetherness and peace around lit candles. 

Focus our hearts on Christ

Our nightly scripture readings and carols help us to remember that we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, not just a gift giving event. On Christmas Eve, we light our wreath before opening gifts.

Share Christ with Guests

When we have guests in December, they seem to enjoy participating as we light our wreath.  This gives us opportunity to enjoy worship and prayer with fellow believers and to share our faith with mslms in an engaging way.

Enjoy Christmas Fully!

Observing advent is a great way to make Christmas last for a whole month! Some nights we enjoy a special drink or snack or spend extra time singing carols for fun.

Does your family observe advent?  How do you do it?

Advent starts on December 2nd. Here are a few links:


Annmarie Pipa said...

what beautiful traditions you have. I know that provides security and stability in a mixed up world! good for all of you!

joy said...

Yes, here in Norway, we celebrate advent too. Gonna light my candles tomorrow:)
You have a nice family traditoin and I wish i could do the same. But my husband is not a believer, so I just read my bible for myself.
Dropping by from " On your heart Tuesdays. My entry: insulting words?

Paula Green said...

Thanks for sharing this post and your traditions! My kids are teenagers and today I've been mulling over which traditions to keep, which ones to toss, and new ones to start. Thanks for the links, too!

Choate Family said...

Yes, yes, yes! Everything you said is right on :-) We're enjoying our first furlough back in the States with so many ways to celebrate Advent and Christmas, but our favorite is still that Advent wreath. It stills our hearts and draws us closer to Jesus and to each other. And, my kids are still young enough to fuss a little about who gets to blow out the candles!

OliveTree said...

Enjoy your Christmas back in the States, Choate Family!

And Paula, I'm also all for evaluating always which traditions to keep and which to discard. Makes life simpler.