Advent makes us grateful to be Catholic: It is full of beautiful, ancient traditions unique to our faith — an ideal time to instill a yearning for Christ in our kids.
During Advent, we can experience with our children what it was like to be an Old Testament people, longing for a Savior.
We can teach our children lessons about patience and learning to wait.
Seeing our children’s excitement and joy about Christmas can renew our own love for Jesus. How can we not take the time to celebrate this Church season?
Here are five easy things we’ve done over the years in our home:
1. Put an Advent wreath on your dinner table and light it each night for dinner. Don’t let this age-old tradition only be seen in Church on Sunday. The wreath symbolizes more than just the four weeks of Advent; the four candles can also represent the 4,000 years man was on earth before the Savior was born. The kids can take turns lighting and blowing out the candles. We usually say a short prayer like, "Come, Lord Jesus, be born in our hearts."
2. Do active works of mercy to prepare for the Savior. Advent is a time of preparation, and we all need tangible ways to prepare spiritually for the birth of Jesus. Put up a small manger somewhere in your home or outside, and each time any member of the family does something for the love of Jesus, he or she can put a strand of hay in the crib. It’s a blessing to see the manger get fuller and fuller for Jesus as Christmas nears. Don’t put Jesus in until Christmas Eve. We’ve also seen some families do a similar version of this with paper chains that they then use to decorate the Christmas tree.
3. Don’t forget St. Nicholas. His story is the origin of hanging stockings, after all. He was a real person, a bishop during one of the Roman persecutions, and his feast day is Dec. 6.
4. Exchange names and be "Advent angels" for one another. Encourage the kids to pray for the person they’ve drawn, as well as do secret good deeds for that person throughout the season. On Christmas Eve, everyone can guess each other’s angels and exchange presents. This helps sibling rivalry become sibling revelry!
5. Do something spiritual for yourself. Can you add in a short prayer time or Bible reading each morning during Advent or perhaps a daily Rosary? It just might turn into a great habit.
Take advantage of any spiritual happenings in your parish, too. Pray that Christmas will bring you a new zeal and deeper love for Christ this year.
The McDonalds are coordinators of family life and
adult education at St. Ignatius parish in Mobile, Alabama.