Thursday, December 15, 2011

12 Days of Christmas day 3




Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved
writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson,
Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as
each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during
this most wonderful time of the year.

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open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

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***

Advent By Sibella Giorello

Consider the bride's walk down the aisle. We all know where that woman in the
white is going but somehow waiting for her to arrive at the altar is an essential
part of the ceremony. In fact, the waiting is so essential that even cheapskate
Vegas chapels include wedding marches.

Why?

Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.

At Christmas time, we tend to forget this essential truth about anticipation.
We're lost to shopping malls and checklists, rushing toward December 25th so
quickly that we forget the quiet joy of the month's other 24 days -- and then we
wonder why we feel so empty on the 26th, amid ribbons and wrapping paper
and our best intentions.

Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.

And that is why Advent is so important to Christmas.

I'm as guilty as the next harried person. This Advent was particularly tricky
because just six hours before it started, I was still trying to finish a 110,000-
word novel that was written over the course of the year -- written while
homeschooling my kids, keeping my hubby happy, and generally making sure
the house didn't fall down around us.

It's an understatement to say my free time is limited. But waiting adds
meaning, and Advent is crucial to Christmas, so I've devised several
Advent traditions that are simple, powerful and easy to keep even amid the
seasonal rush.

When my kids outgrew the simple Advent calendars around age 7, I stole an

idea from my writer friend Shelly Ngo (as T.S. Eliot said, "Mediocre writers
borrow. Great writers steal." Indulge me.)

Here's how it goes: Find 24 great Christmas books, wrap them individually
and place then under the tree. On the first day of Advent, take turns picking
which book to open. When we did this, we would cuddle under a blanket and
read aloud -- oh, the wonder, the magic! We savored "The Polar Express,"
howled with "How Murray Saved Christmas," and fell silent at the end of "The
Tale of The Three Trees" (note: some of the picture books I chose were not
explicitly about Christmas but they always echoed the message that Jesus
came to earth to save us from ourselves and to love us beyond our wildest
imagination. In that category, Angela Hunt's retelling of The Three Trees
definitely hits the Yuletide bull's eye).

This Advent tradition lasted for about five years. It gave us rich daily
discussions about the season's real meaning, without being religious or
legalistic, and it increased family couch time. But like the lift-the-flap
calendars, my kids outgrew the picture books.

Because the wait adds meaning, and Advent is crucial, I prayed for another way
to celebrate anticipation of Christmas. By the grace of God, last year I found an
enormous Advent calendar on clearance at Pottery Barn. Made of burlap, it has
large pockets big enough to hold some serious bounty.

But my husband and I didn't want the kids focusing only on the materialist stuff
for Advent -- we already fight that on Christmas day. We decided to fill the
daily pockets with simple necessities and small gift cards. We also printed out
the nativity story from Luke 2:1-21 in a large-sized font and cut each verse out.
From Day 1 to Day 21, there is one verse to read aloud. The kids memorize it,
then get to open their present (again, on alternating days for each person). Then
we tape the verse to the wall in order. By Day 22, all the verses are on the wall,
in order, and the kids now try to recite the entire nativity story from memory.
That's not as difficult as it sounds because they've been memorizing one verse
each day. Still, the entire recitation -- verbatim -- usually requires Day 23 and
Day 24. Whoever does memorize the entire thing -- without mistakes -- earns a
bonus gift of $25.

Does that sounds extravagant?

It is.

Because we want our kids to understand that God came down and humbled
himself and taught us about love right before He suffered and died on behalf of
the undeserving -- which is every one of us.

"That's" extravagant.

And in the waiting, we find even more meaning.

***
Sibella Giorello writes the Raleigh Harmon mystery series which won
the Christy Award with its first book "The Stones Cry Out." She lives in
Washington state with her husband and children, and often wishes there were
36 hours in a day.

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