“We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts, we travel so far. (sic)” The little voice sings from the back of the car. My son, strapped into his carseat, is singing one of his favorite songs.
As I stared at the crowds amassed around our holy family, it occurred to me that with our first child, other than the occasional comment on our parenting and her stranger glare reserved demeanor, we were pretty much left alone as parents to sink or float.
Today, eight days into the Christmas season, the Episcopal Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Name. We celebrate this feast day on January 1st each year because it’s the day when Jesus was named by his parents and circumcised.
Advent is my favorite season. The waiting, the candles, the music, the smells of cookies and gingerbread baking, the early darkness; I revel in all of it. As a child with infinite imagination, every year I embraced the anticipation of the Christ child with all my heart. And yes, Santa and gifts were fine with me too. But it is the expectation of wonder that thrills my heart. These days, as a parent, a Christian educator, and a reluctant adult, it’s all a little more complicated.
The Friday before the first weekend in Advent, I had only just arrived home when my nearly four year-old son asked if we could begin decorating right now! My wife and I agreed (after dinner). We said that, with our nine month-old beginning to sit up and crawl, we could decorate only at a height out of her reach. We’d set up our little Christmas tree: one that fits on a table top.
I saw an Instagram post this past week made by a residential program for women who are trying to piece their lives back together after varying circumstances. The picture in the post showed a small child holding a Christmas ornament, the young son of one of the women. The child was entranced with the sparkly red ball in his hands.
Reading some beautiful picture books of the Christmas stories is easily one of the most delightful and simple ways to focus our preparations on the birth of Christ. So head to your library, bookstore, or the Amazon marketplace and while you are at it, pick up some hot chocolate and marshmallows then prepare to snuggle up in front of twinkly lights.
When is it okay to start listening to Christmas music? This is not a trick question—I am not the worship police, but I am very aware that we Christians can be particularly judgy about music. For years, I, too, did not want to acknowledge Christmas music in Advent, not least because I love Advent and its hymns (“Comfort, Comfort Ye My People!”).
Mary does not have a gender-reveal party with a surprise color of cake–teenage pregnancy has always been hard–but she does seem to have a wise friend, and having a wise friend seems to make all the difference. I’ve been thinking about wise friends lately.
There is so much I hoped to do during this Advent, for my own kids, for the children and families in my ministry, and yes, for myself. And as always, come Christmas morning, some of it will have to be put away with vague hopes and promises of next year