Advent is traditionally a time of preparation for Christmas. It is said that the door to the stable where the Christ Child has been born is very low, and only those who kneel find access. Jesus said in Matthew 18 that unless we change and become like children—pure, simple, and humble—we will not enter His Kingdom. Being ready for Christmas should mean that our thoughts are focused not just on letters, cards, and presents, but on repentance, humbling, and interior “housecleaning.” John the Baptist warned his hearers to prepare a way for the Lord: to make a clear and level pathway. This involves removing any boulders that stand in the way, and filling in any potholes. The boulders are the things we have done that we should not have done; the potholes are the things we have failed to do which we obviously should have done. The more, as individuals, family, or school, we are focused in this way, the less we will be overwhelmed by the commercialization of Christmas.

In the run-up to Christmas, we remember especially Zacharias and Elizabeth, and the child John, who, still in the womb, leapt in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. Christ has come; Christ has died and is risen; Christ will come again.

A number of customs help us in our preparation for the coming of the Lord, and here are three in particular that you may consider with your families this year:

  1. Advent is always a period of preparation (40 days to 4 weeks) before Christmas. Many families choose to do a special time of prayer and scripture reading each evening during Advent. Many also choose to light a candle of the Advent wreath each evening. By lending thought and consideration, this can be a special time of spiritual formation for the entire family! One practice you might consider at home as a family during Advent is using the Biola University Advent Project .

  2. The Jesse Tree is a branch decorated with ornaments signifying characters in the genealogy of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph through the line of David, son of Jesse. It may also have ornaments signifying prophecies foretelling the coming of the Messiah. You may consider having a Jesse Tree in your home. We’ll be hanging ornaments on our own Jesse Tree and doing associated scripture readings during assembly here at school. Here’s an Evangelical example, and here’s a traditional Catholic example, if you are interested.

  3. Many of us have Nativity scenes at home as part of our decorations for the season. These can be used with children, young and old, to build healthy anticipation for Jesus, and to teach them about the significance of His coming. You might consider keeping the shepherds, the magi, and Jesus out of the Nativity scene until a special time this year. You might place Jesus in the manger on the night of Christmas Eve, and to bring the shepherds into the scene that evening as well. Then, you might bring the Magi closer and closer to the scene until finally having them arrive to adore Jesus on the 6th of January (Epiphany, which traditionally celebrates the first instance of Christ being revealed to the Gentiles, i.e., the wise men). With each movement, parents and children can share about these key people in the birth of Christ.

Finally, I pray that this season is one of humility, warmth, love, and caring for all of us. May we share the wonder of the shepherds before the manger, the adoration of Mary and Joseph, and the peace of the Christ Child on that Christmas morn.

Peace and Joy to You and Yours!