Each week as I finish Sunday services, I proclaim God’s blessing upon my congregation. In it, I pray a translation of Philippians that my parishioners will grow “in the knowledge and love of the Lord.” As a parent, I sometimes wonder how I’m intentionally doing that. Last year, I started a new Advent tradition with my daughter Eirnín (then two years old).
When we make family formation a fraught exercise, we work against our own desires. I love to have fun with my faith. I’m a geek, a gamer and a science fiction fan. As a father, I want my kids to like the things I like; I also want them to learn that the journey of faith is a journey of fun.
Last year, my sister-in-law bought Eirnín a LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, a secular calendar produced through the partnership between the Lego and Star Wars franchises. Each year a new calendar comes out and includes 24 “mini-builds,” small builds representing various ships, characters and locations in the Star Wars universe.
For example, LEGO currently has two main Millennium Falcon builds (Han Solo’s iconic ship, present in Episodes IV and beyond):
Millennium Falcon (75105) is 1,329 pieces and 18” long.
Millennium Falcon (75192) is 7,541 pieces and THREE FEET long!
The Advent Calendar Millennium Falcon contains only 22 pieces and is about an inch long. A mini-build can be completed in seconds or minutes rather than hours or days.
Looking at the gift, I realized it was a teaching opportunity. Not only could I teach my two-year-old about Star Wars, I could also teach her about Advent and Christmas! Each day, I could open the mini-build, describe it to her and interpret it in light of the season. Around that time, Facebook Live was becoming popular; I could stream our opening and teaching on Facebook! I could also turn around a YouTube version of the same opening and teaching to share with my congregation and the wider Church!
Eirnín loved it; people loved it. Eirnín got to be formed in her father’s geekdom AND love of Christ; the congregation got to see us interact. It became a focal point of the congregation’s Advent celebration and friends within and without the Church enjoyed the five minutes each day.
This year, when the Advent calendar arrived from Amazon, Eirnín went nuts. “Star Wars! Advent!” As she gets older, I look forward to her love of both developing, but mostly I’m excited that she’s learning that faith is fun and the Gospel is everywhere.
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Does your family make use of a secular Advent calendar? Which one?