Advent in Real Life

Christmas Mess by eren | thisvintagechica at flickr.com

by Stephanie Baker, guest blogger extraordinaire

(Head blogger’s note: This is the first in our series from parents who show that it really is possible to raise teenagers into successful, happy, well-adjusted, faith-filled, intelligent adults. And yes, our bloggers are real people. I didn’t make any of this up.)

When I was growing up I remember only one household ritual that we kept religiously each year.  It was the Advent wreath.  Each night before having dinner together, my mother, father, brother, and I would recite a simple prayer and light the candle on our tabletop Advent wreath.  The circle of evergreens and the purple and pink candles were beautiful on our dining table.  I was fascinated by the ever-growing light and the ever-shrinking candles as we approached the most exciting night of the year – Christmas Eve.  My husband and I continued this tradition when we were married and looked forward to sharing it with our children one day.  Ahhh, it all sounds so lovely!

The reality when my children were gathered around the table during the month of December was quite different from my childhood memory.  John, my oldest, was very concerned with fairness and making sure he was never on the short end of anything.  He also liked to entertain himself by teasing his sister, Emily, until she screamed like a banshee.  Our youngest, William, never much cared for dinner hour at all, preferring to eat when he happened to be hungry.

So there we were, the five of us, gathered around our Advent candles.  Who would light them?  Who would read the blessing? How could we make this “fair” to everyone?  Could we calm ourselves long enough to pray and give thanks to God?  In all honesty I have to say that we rarely matched my childhood memory.  More than likely someone was crying or screaming or laughing and I’m not just talking about the kids.  We did persevere, however.  Now my adult children have their own memory to reflect upon.  Hopefully, my little granddaughter will one day light the candles and offer a prayer of her own.  Perhaps her father will figure out a way to make it fair to all.

I like to say that I am a recovering perfectionist.  It was my children who cured me of this disease.  The Advent wreath ritual was partially responsible.

Stephanie Baker is co-author of Kitchen Table Conversations: Preparing at Home for Sunday Eucharist (Twenty-Third Publications), with co-author  Anna Humaydan.  Stephanie and Anna are former parish DREs with Master Degrees in Pastoral Ministry from Holy Names University. They have presented workshops, in-services, and trainings for the California Dioceses of Stockton, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Monterey, the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Dallas, Texas. 

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