Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight (Matthew 3:3).
My family always visits my parents for Christmas. Before we arrive, my mom asks what food we want. Not just breakfast, lunch and dinner, but also snacks and dessert. She puts fresh sheets on the beds and lays out clean towels. My parents’ house looks spotless when we arrive.
One year I asked my mom why she did all of the cleaning, the tidying, the special cooking. I said she didn’t have to work so hard for us. “I know I don’t,” she smiled. “I know you would come and stay either way. I just want you to feel welcome.”
Indeed, my family does the same thing at our home when we have guests, whether they’re joining us for dinner or staying overnight. We clean the house, purchase food they like and adopt a posture of hospitality. It’s for the same reason: we want our guests to feel welcome. I expect the same is true for you and your family.
Advent is a time of preparation, of getting our hearts and homes ready for the arrival of Jesus. It’s when we decorate our sacred spaces, make special meals and share gifts with others. Advent is a liturgical season children can understand quite easily if we help them connect the dots between our family traditions and faith practices.
Invite your children to help you prepare for Christmas and chat with them while you work. Some moments ripe for reflection include:
Putting up decorations. Ask your children if they know why we decorate for Christmas. Show them decorations that were put up when they were born and for special occasions since. Help them see that we are doing the same things when we decorate during Advent—we’re preparing to welcome baby Jesus.
Participating in a gift-giving project together. Show the children some of the items that were bought for them before they were born. Reflect on past birthdays and the gifts they received. Share that Jesus’ birth is coming, and this is what he wants: not gifts for himself but for those in need.
Cooking or baking together. One of the most important parts of having guests is preparing a meal, and families usually have a Christmas meal or baking tradition. Invite the children in your life to join in your preparations, helping as their age and abilities allow. Discuss other times you prepared food for guests on special occasions.
We thank you, Jesus, for being born.
We thank you for the chance to celebrate your birth together.
We thank you that we can serve others in your name.
Provide for those who lack food, clothing and shelter.
Comfort those who are sick or struggling.
Grant us peace on Earth this Advent and always.