The weeks leading up to Christmas are a big deal in our house. Since I was a child, the season was celebrated with special outings, songs, events and memory-making moments.

As a parent now, I find that keeping the time filled with more holy days than holidays is a challenge. We attempt to do this by honoring the saint days that lead up to Christmas Day. Lutherans hold the saints as portals through which you see the faith embodied across the ages.

St. Andrew’s Day, Nov. 30: The first Sunday of Advent is always the one closest to this commemoration, which is a day for all of those forgotten in the shadows of others—the B-sides of the records of life. Andrew’s brother, Peter, plays such a prominent role in the Gospel narratives. But Andrew, from the same home and same profession, barely gets a mention.

St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6: Nicholas, the ancient bishop of Myra, was a generous Turkish saint who saved some in his parish from being sold into slavery by paying their dowry, throwing sacks of coins through open windows. This “gift” is the basis for gift-giving today at Christmas.

St. Lucy’s Day, Dec. 13: Lucy was a fourth-century Italian martyr who grew in popularity throughout Scandinavia as the patron saint of “bringing light” into the long winter nights. Her faith was a light for all to see and is a reminder that, though winter days are short in this hemisphere, God’s light shines through.

Las Posadas, Dec. 16: This celebration marks the Holy Family’s journey to find lodging in Bethlehem and is popular in Latinx heritage. The best option for families is to find a community doing a reenactment and join in on the journey. Music, food, dancing and wonderful storytelling will be found. Another option is to be intentional about inviting another family over to share a meal, some songs and a story or two.

Honoring the saint days dots the Advent waiting with moments of intentional joy.

Practices

St. Andrew’s Day: Write a note of thanks to the people in your world who do so much but go unnoticed.

St. Nicholas Day: On Dec. 5, leave shoes outside the door and, in the night, fill them with an orange, some chocolate coins and a coloring book or reading book.

St. Lucy’s Day: Young children can don a crown of sparkling garland or electric candles as they bring breakfast to the house.

Las Posadas: This is a wonderful chance to talk with children about immigrants and how it’s difficult to be far from home. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and ELCA World Hunger have activities and stories to share in this season about what it means to try to find a home away from home.

Tim Brown
Tim Brown is a pastor, writer, and mission ambassador and gifts officer for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

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