I’m here with Sukie as we await the birth of Freddie’s baby brother. (So if the photo is sideways or something, please forgive me!)
I’m thinking of you as my inbox is somewhat overflowing with advice-seeking on Advent and Christmas, and I sense a special urgency to answer these questions because on the one hand, everything depends on our living our Advent aright so that we may worship the Incarnate God on Christmas morning — and on the other, this living aright is not complicated and I hate to see you get stressed out. Is Pinterest stressing you out?
But I have children! you cry. And I answer: “Then nothing will be easier than living this Advent, for is it not as a little child that He came into this world?”
Simply because Jesus became a tiny baby for our delight and wonder, He made it so that we would discover everything we need to know by means of this moment. What’s hard for us to understand is that it’s in the very humbleness of His coming that we’ll find the key.
And a little part of you saying, “Does it really matter? Can’t we just do things the way everyone else does them?” But knowing that when January rolls around, you will have a bad taste in your mouth because of an opportunity missed, even if you don’t quite know what that opportunity was…
Here’s the thing. The Incarnation is the crucial event of the universe. God, uncreated, eternal, perfect, chose to send His only begotten Son to enter time and history with a human nature. This human nature is perfectly united with the divine nature of this Second Person of the Trinity. He didn’t pretend to be a baby. He was a baby.
Everyone knows that there is something about this that is mysterious and compelling. Even those who don’t believe simply must celebrate something. But of course, we wouldn’t think to have lights or decorations or anything at all if it weren’t for Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, a birth that contains within it His death and resurrection and all that was to come.
And it’s not too much to say that the way we celebrate this event can and ought to be the pivot on which the whole education in the faith of our children turns — as well as our own spiritual growth.
That is, if you ask the question, “How do I teach my children (very young and older too) the faith?” — and I’m sure this, this, is the burning question! The answer is, “By celebrating Christmas aright.”
All the wonder, all the promise, the happy ending we all seek:
“Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone around the Christmas fire; and made the little pictures shining in our bright young eyes, complete.” (Charles Dickens, quoted at the beginning of a book Habou and I highly recommend, Cradle of Redeeming Love: The Theology of the Christmas Mystery, by John Saward.)
It’s just that, alas, most of us are not piling into the sleigh to go to Midnight Mass, returning to a simple wassail lovingly prepared by devoted hands to break the fast. We aren’t living in a Tasha Tudor book or a Dickens novel. I for one wish we were!
So we are in that terrible and oxymoronic predicament of having to sort of invent traditions — often while fending off well meaning (or sometimes bitter) relatives (and even some at church!) who have liturgy-thwarting ideas.
At least, this is what the lovely readers are telling me in their emails.
I will try to make this a little series on preparing for Advent (“Preparing for the season of preparation?” Rosie asked me… but sometimes a pep talk for thought and prayer helps) in the coming week.