Get the most out of Advent for your family

Last year, we lost power on the First Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday of Advent and Christmas Day. And no, losing power is not something normal for us, it rarely happens. I couldn’t help notice the symbolism of the power loss on those significant days. It was a reminder that the only light we really need is Christ and He never fails to come.

 

Sometimes, as in cases of power outages, we are forced to deal with the darkness and circumstances we did not choose. It can be a wake-up call, which is what we are told about in the Gospel on this First Sunday of Advent. But you don’t need to wait for the power to go out. Wake up now and get an early start on helping your family have the best Advent ever.

As we prepare to welcome Baby Jesus into our hearts and homes, and also prepare our own souls for His second coming, we are told to “stay alert!” The Gospel reading from the 13th chapter of Mark for this Sunday reminds us that we are to always stay watchful. We are the servants awaiting the return of the Master, who could come at any time. There is an urgency relayed here. We can’t afford not to take this seriously. Jesus warns us, “May He not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

Don’t you feel sometimes as if you’re sleeping through your life? Or at least through your faith life? How do we get out of these sleepy patterns where our faith is not growing and we are not in a place of readiness to meet our Lord? How do we teach our children to be watchful for the Lord? Start by relating the faith to something kids love to do. In our house, one thing all our kids love is cooking or baking with Mom or Dad. Another favorite is story time. In your house it might be crafting, building, singing or acting. Perhaps mix it up with a combination of different pastimes that you can use as a vehicle to make our Catholic Faith and all her rich characters come alive.

A common question from our kids is: “Is it a Feast Day?” We try to celebrate feast days of saints and important liturgical feasts with special meals or homemade treats as a way to honor the feast and lead to discussion about the importance of the day and what it means in our faith life. We have a calendar that hangs in the kitchen that has a saint listed for every day. Believe me, it gets checked regularly for an excuse to celebrate. We don’t celebrate every saint on the calendar (remember there is such a thing as too much feasting), but we try to mark the more significant ones as we can. These mini-celebrations really do serve as “wake-up calls,” just like Jesus reminds us in the Gospel this Sunday.

Do your kids know that the First Sunday of Advent is also the first day of the new liturgical year? Want to know how to teach them this fact in a way they won’t forget? On Saturday night, Dec. 2, host a New Year’s Eve party. You could do this just with your own family, but even better if you want to invite others to ring in the “new year” with you. Find some noisemakers (dollar store), make some “new year resolutions” (maybe pick a virtue to cultivate throughout Advent), have some fun finger foods and take a few moments to explain to your kids how the liturgical year works.

During the first week of Advent, the first big feast is that of St. Nicholas Dec. 6. There are some great children’s books on this saint that would make a great gift for your kids to wake up to on this morning. Many families even put out their shoes the night before in hopes that St. Nicholas will fill them with candy by morning. He always comes through at our house.

This fourth-century archbishop was known for his generosity — especially his anonymous generosity because he never sought recognition for his good deeds. That makes this day a good time to have your kids pick out their “secret Santa” for Christmas. Write down some names (family, friends or neighbors) and then write down some good deeds (baking, babysitting, decorating, etc.) Have each family member pick out of a hat (or shoe) a name followed by a good deed for that person, but in the spirit of St. Nicholas, keep it secret.

There are so many ways to wake up your family this Advent. Take a closer look at that liturgical calendar and be alert to all God has to offer us.

Lazzuri is a mother of six and writes from her home in Nova Scotia.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017