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By Susan Hines-Brigger

Advent: The Waiting Game


What Advent's All About
For Teens: Christ Kindl
For Kids: An Advent Calendar With a Twist

This past February, my son, Alex, made a grand appearance three weeks before his scheduled due date. Needless to say, the whole thing threw me for a loop. I hadn’t washed the sheets for the crib, and the baby clothes were still in storage. I hadn’t even bought diapers yet.

In the grand scheme of things, though, none of that mattered. All that mattered was that Alex was here and healthy.

For me, Advent is kind of like that. I worry about all the things I have to do, but in the end, whether or not I have all the cards sent, cookies baked or presents bought, Christmas will still arrive and I will still be blessed by Christ’s birth.

Having said that, I must confess that I struggle to practice what I have just preached. In fact, my toddler daughter, Madison, recently chided me for my impatience, reminding me, “Patience is a virtue, Mom.” To which I replied, “Yes, one which your mother was not blessed with.” (I found the comment amusing coming from someone who opened all 25 days of the Advent calendar on December 1 last year.)

What Advent's All About

Advent begins December 1 this year, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Advent means “the coming.” It is the beginning of the Church’s liturgical year. During this time we are called to reflect on the upcoming birth of Jesus. The way we do this is by slowing down, taking a sort of “time out” from our busy and hectic lives.

But let’s face it: In our society, that’s not the easiest thing to do. So it’s no surprise that we struggle with things that call for us to slow down, be patient, take it easy.

In Advent, the Church provides us with a ready-made opportunity to stop, regroup and refocus on the meaning of the season. The question each year, however, is will we take advantage of that opportunity? Below are some suggestions to help reduce stress in preparing for Christmas:

• Before you do anything, ask yourself why you’re doing it. For many people most of Advent is spent rushing to get Christmas shopping done, cards sent, cookies baked, etc. Those activities in themselves can be wonderful experiences as long as they’re done in joyful anticipation of Christ’s birth.

For instance, a friend of mine told me last year that she was not sending Christmas cards or doing any baking because it was too stressful and took too much time. I asked her if she enjoyed doing those things and she said yes, but there just wasn’t enough time between work, parties, shopping and the kids’ school events. As a working mom of two children myself, I could appreciate what she was saying.

But I also knew that some of my most precious moments of this season are when my husband, Mark, and I slow down and spend time doing things with our children. Sure, we still do Christmas shopping, decorate the house and attend other holiday events, but we make sure we’re doing those things for good reasons rather than out of mere obligation.

• One of my favorite Christmas shows is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I especially love the part where Linus recites the story of Jesus’ birth. Watch the video as a family and then read the Infancy Narrative (1:5—2:52) from Luke’s Gospel.

• Advent is rich with traditions, such as the Advent wreath, the Jesse tree, the Advent calendar and many others. Select at least one of these traditions to celebrate in your home. Some good resources for these customs are Holy Bells and Wonderful Smells: Year-round Activities for Classrooms and Families, by Jeanne Hunt, or The Best of Holy Days and Holidays: Prayer Celebrations With Children, by Gaynell Bordes Cronin. (Both are available from St. Anthony Messenger Press.)

• It’s awfully easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. Take some time each day—by yourself and also with your family—to remember the purpose of the Advent and Christmas season through prayer and actions.

They say that good things come to those who wait. I think that’s true. I know my family and I will be in good company as we practice patience and waiting during this joyous season of Advent.

Next Month: Does Anyone Write Letters Anymore?



For Teens: Christ Kindl

In Germany, the custom of Christ Kindl helps people focus on the spirit of giving during the Advent season. According to the custom, at the beginning of the Advent season, individuals select the name of a family member. (You can also do this with friends or as a family/group.)

Throughout the season, the Christ Kindl secretly does small favors for that person, such as making his or her bed, leaving a small treat or gift, or any other gesture that displays love, caring and thoughtfulness. On or around Christmas Eve, the Christ Kindl reveals his or her identity.

If you want to celebrate this custom with a group, such as your youth group or class, you could adopt a local family in need, residents at a local nursing home or an elderly neighbor. This would make it difficult to keep it a secret, but the important thing is to demonstrate the spirit of giving in whatever way you can.

For Kids: An Advent Calendar With a Twist

Most Advent calendars are set up so that you either open a door each day to reveal something or you place something, such as a small stuffed animal, in a slot representing each day until Christmas. But how about creating an Advent calendar with a twist?

Cut 25 strips of yellow construction paper big enough to write on. Each day, beginning December 1, perform some kind deed, such as cleaning up your room without being asked, paying someone a compliment or drawing someone a picture or writing them a note or poem. After you have performed your deed, write it—or have someone help you—on the strip of paper along with the date. If your family has a manger scene set out, ask your mom or dad if you can put the strips in the crib as if they were hay ready to cushion the Baby Jesus. If your family does not have a manger scene, simply place the strips in a shoebox or some type of box and place it under the tree to represent a bed for the baby Jesus when he arrives on December 25.

Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at "Faith-filled Family," 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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