Here we are at the end of the third Sunday in Advent, properly known as Gaudete Sunday. I discovered this fact from reading Sybil MacBeth’s Advent series of blogs, which I highly recommend. I will be buying her new Advent book to give me some ideas and inspiration for next year. “Gaudete” means “rejoice” and it’s the imperative form; we are commanded to rejoice!
Our Church family had lots of reasons to rejoice this morning, with a load of baptisms and renewals of baptismal promises, a huge answer to prayer witnessed in the recovery of a young person from a serious illness, plus two 90th birthdays and a brand-new 4-day-old baby joining us :)
I was also reflecting, as I cut and curled ribbon this evening, on the joy of giving. I ponder every Advent on what I want to teach my children in this season. Not just that they learn the Christmas story (by the way my Bluebird is LOVING working through Alice Buckley’s fabulous retellings of the core of the Nativity – God to the Rescue! It’s not too late to download the pages, colour in the characters and tell the stories together) but that the heart attitude they see in me and the actions they watch me take are ones I would be happy for them to emulate. One thing I want them to learn is to give joyfully.
An elderly person asked the other day if my children had written their lists to Santa. I looked a bit blank. I’m sure they will reach that stage at some point, but actually the only lists they have asked for help to write are the lists of people they want to make presents and cards for. This year, Snow White and I began crafting in October half term. She has made sets of fridge magnets from stamped, painted and varnished air-drying clay, and I have helped her package them up in matchboxes made with Christmas scrapbook paper.
She has invested a lot of time in these gifts and put a lot of thought into them too. Bluebird will be giving bookmarks, decorated with one of his drawings. They are both excited to give their presents to teachers, helpers, family and to many people who contribute to their happy little lives (such as “The Library Van Man”!). Although they would (naturally) answer “getting presents!” as the most exciting thing about Christmas, I do think they also take joy in giving.
Each year I also want to select the most meaningful, special and “magical” elements of the season for our family to participate in. I don’t want Advent to be swamped by manic shopping, grumpy tidying, obsessive baking, over-coached performances or too many occasions that require best behaviour. I want to tread a careful path through the tangle of my own unrealistic expectations and the claims of others on our time, and come out the other side still rejoicing that my God came to Earth as a baby in Bethlehem. Read Desertmum Lucy’s thoughts on the balancing act here.
So far several things listed on the calendar have been prevented by poor planning, illness or circumstances beyond my control. I’m trying to choose to see this as a blessed opportunity to prune and simplify my crazy, rather than a frustration. I would only have cried through the whole of Snow White’s school nativity anyway. I can trot out the Advent activity for our Mums’ group next year. The cakes I bought for a cancelled party will do for a different party. And I’m sure the gingerbread men for the pre-school bazaar tomorrow are just fine without icing or decorations!