MaryBeth Eberhard looked to her children for guidance in planning the most important Advent activities for her family.
Advent surprised me again this year. Every year, I promise I will enter into it and find that promised peace, and every year I find myself feeling resentful for the pace of it all. I can’t seem to slow it down! I know what I am looking for because I have experienced His peace before. This quiet, calm sharing of time with the Lord with no pace set other than the flow of conversation and the beating of our hearts.
Sometimes it is hard for me to slow down during Advent. “There is so much to prepare for!” I say to myself. There’s the baking, the feast days, all the traditions, Christmas Eve Mass, clothes for the kids, snow pants, boots, and the list goes on for every parent. So how to slow down?
Hung our dining room wall during Advent are seven letters painted in purple: PREPARE. I love to prepare. I’m a mother. It’s what I do well. Perhaps to my detriment. As a mom of many, and one who loves to “set the table for Jesus to do His work," I am always doing and going and that pace, which no on other than myself is expecting of me, exhausts me to the point of not being able to prepare for that which is truly important, that which is eternal.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the goal of Advent is to “make present the ancient expectancy of the Messiah.” How do we teach our family the skills of being expectant, of preparing? As an educator, I believe that modeling is the best answer. Jesus modeled for us, and we model for our children. It is easy to get caught up in the external preparations of Advent. I recently took out a white board and asked my children to list the external things they do to prepare their hearts during Advent and then also the internal things that prepare their hearts for Advent. I needed their help getting myself back on track and I told them so.
For the external, they listed decorating, shopping, singing, and baking. For the internal, they listed adoration, our Advent wreath and prayers, the Jesse tree and just sitting at night by the fireplace thinking and praying. One asked if I would join him. Another suggested we go to adoration together. Another found our new resource book for this Advent season and pointed out that the prayers are just 5 minutes! Just as I am noticing that things in my home are changing as older ones go off to college, so too can change bring back old traditions that might have fallen by the wayside in the throes of parenting older kids.
Learning from my children, I have been more intentional with our time. We did not just decorate the tree this year, but we prepared a Christmas tree worthy of baby Jesus’ manger. That tree holds years of memories of ornaments created or gifted. We tell the stories. We draw closer to each other and to the Lord. We say our Advent prayers. We intentionally look at the clock and make this time an offering.
I’m decorating with a heart of expectancy. The Christ Child is coming! This year, thanks to my kids, I already feel closer to Jesus simply by being intentional with our typical traditions and making them an offering to Him.
Copyright 2022 MaryBeth Eberhard
About the Author
MaryBeth Eberhard spends most of her time laughing as she and her husband parent and school their eight children. She has both a biological son and an adopted daughter who have a rare neuromuscular condition called arthrogryposis and writes frequently about the life experiences of a large family and special needs. Read more of her work at MaryBethEberhard.com.