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Do you remember your first day of school this year? Many families start planning for the new school year way ahead of time. You might have needed to get a new backpack or new clothes or shoes. You usually need to buy markers and scissors, tape and paper and notebooks. You probably packed your backpack the night before and got a good night’s sleep so that on the first day of school you were awake and ready for a new school year!
This Sunday is the first day in the church’s year, and it is the first Sunday in Advent. The word Advent means “to come.” The season of Advent is the time when we prepare to celebrate Christmas Day and the birth of baby Jesus. Many people decorate their homes during the four weeks of Advent; they put wreaths or greens on their front door, and put bright lights outside, or candles in the windows. Many families have a Christmas tree, decorated with lights and ornaments. Some people get in touch with friends, by sending cards or emails or calling them, to wish them a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
In today’s scripture, Jesus is talking with his disciples, and tells them to “Keep awake!” and later tells them to “Keep alert!” Jesus wanted them to pay attention, and think about what they are doing and why they are doing, it. As we prepare our homes and make plans for the celebration of Christmas Day, we also need to take time to prepare our selves, our minds and our hearts, and think about what Christmas really means.
Our Christmas traditions can help us prepare. Some families make and share specific foods at Christmas: Christmas breads or cookies, candy canes, pomegranates or hot cocoa. Christmas stories and Christmas hymns and music always help us prepare. Many families create an Advent wreath of five candles; a single candle is lit in the first week of Advent. Someone will light the first Advent candle in church on Sunday.
Some families use Advent calendars, to help them prepare for Christmas. Print this Advent calendar drawn by Thomas Mousin. The calendar begins on Sunday, the first day of Advent, and ends of Christmas Eve. You can color in each day as it comes, or color the whole calendar and check off the days as they arrive. Each day also has a reminder such as “Light one candle” or “”See the moon.” The calendar also includes this lovely poem, which you or your family could read as a prayer:
With Ev’ry passing day, as sunlight disappears,
The dusk descends, and prayers ascend for strength to calm our fears.
Uncertain is this time, when rancor seems to reign,
And illness leaves within its wake such sadness, grief and pain.
Yet soon a star will shine. Look up! Keep watch and wait.
Then hear within a newborn’s cry the love that conquers hate.
That love, whose light becomes, the dawn of God’s new day
When peace and justice will prevail and sorrows flee away.
Have you ever heard of a Stone Advent Calendar? First, go on a nature hunt to find 24 stones or rocks to use. Set them up on a path leading to a creche. Each day leading up to Christmas, take one away. It’s a fun way to get ready for Christmas.
I wish you and your family a week of new ADVENTures as you prepare for Christmas.
“Keep alert!” “Look up! Keep watch and wait.”
This week’s Creation Care resources for Families – shared by Rev. Sue & the Creation Care Team:
Green Christmas: Decorations, Feast, and Gifts: Family Activity:
Have an old-fashioned Christmas decorating evening with the kids. String popcorn and cranberries to decorate the tree. Turn dried orange slices into tree ornaments. Sip cocoa, eat homemade Christmas cookies, read a passage from “A Christmas Carol“ by Charles Dickens, and appreciate the joy of the season.
Regenerative Farming: Family Activities:
Solar Energy: Family Activities: Walk around your neighborhood. Count the number of homes with solar. Count the number of new homes under construction that are installing solar. Check out this 5-minute SciToon from Brown University: What is Solar Energy? It’s a great introduction for kids of all ages.
Many years ago, my husband lost his job. Our two sons were young, and I was working part-time – but I was not earning enough to pay for our house and everything we needed. It was a difficult time to find work. During that time, our son’s school had a food drive. I wanted to donate something, but said to a friend, “We just can’t afford to give what we’d like to give.” She reminded me that if everyone gives a little, there will be a lot to share. When I dropped off our donation, I saw tables filled with cans & boxes of food, from the many families who gave “a little.”
This week’s readings and story are about fear and about trust: trust in ourselves, trust in our families, trust in God. In today’s parable (or story) a very wealthy man, who owned lots of land, was planning to go on a long journey. He called together three men who helped him manage his land, and gave them each money; he asked them to take care of the money for him while he was away. The money was paid in “talents”; a talent was worth a lot – probably more than $10,000.
Most of us love to attend celebrations with friends or families, such as family reunions, birthday parties or weddings. When you are getting ready for a special event, you have to plan ahead. You’ll need to do some shopping, for a card or a gift, or for food to share. You might need to dress up. And if you’re in the wedding, you will probably wear a special outfit!
Every family has traditions. Our family has carved or decorated a Halloween pumpkin for many MANY years, but people have been celebrating Halloween for hundreds of years. Halloween is always celebrated on October 31st; Halloween is also called “All Hallow’s Eve” or “The Eve of All Saints Day. All Saints Day is always one day later, on November 1st. All Soul’s Day, or Dia de Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) is celebrated on November 2nd.