1. Advent has always been my favorite season, perhaps even more than Christmas. Advent perfectly captures for me what C. S. Lewis calls “joy” in Surprised by Joy: ”an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction” and which can only be filled by Christ. Ever since I was a child, seeing the candles in the wreath, the string of lights around the roof, and the empty stockings waiting to be filled have stirred in me that hope and desire for…what is it? Even Lewis can’t fully describe it. It’s the longing placed in our hearts for something beyond this world. That’s why all the excitement and happiness of Christmas morning doesn’t ever completely fill that Advent longing.
2. When I was pregnant for the first time, I was pregnant during Advent. A friend lent me the book The Reed of God, by Caryll Houselander, a book of meditations on Mary’s ability to empty herself and be filled by God, to be the “reed” or flute that God uses to make the most beautiful music. Here’s a taste:
By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart.
Today Christ is dependent upon us. This dependence of Christ lays a great trust upon us. During this tender time of Advent we must carry him in our hearts to wherever he wants to go, and there are many places to which he may never go unless we take him.
I highly recommend it as Advent reading for moms, and it would be a special gift to an expectant mother.
Two years ago, when I was again pregnant during Advent, I couldn’t find that book but instead read a collection of Advent & Christmas meditations by Houselander called A Child in Winter. It’s also beautiful (and a good bit of it is from The Reed of God).
The story of Joseph’s bewilderment when he realized that his future wife was going to have a baby is well known, and it is well known, too, that Our Lady did not explain.
Her example here teaches us wisdom, when misunderstandings arise because of Christ conceived in us. There is little gained by trying to explain. At that time, the Advent time, God’s voice is silent in us; it is simply our own heartbeat. Love is more effective than words.
The only thing to do is to go on loving, to be patient, to suffer the misunderstanding. Explanations even of what can be explained seldom heal–and there is so much that cannot be explained.
This is the best Advent book about Mary I’ve come across for children,
The Donkey’s Dream, by Barbara Helen Berger, the most beautiful Advent book in the entire world, in my opinion.
3. St. Nicholas! When Nathaniel was growing up, his family gave gifts on “Santa Claus Day” to reserve Christmas for celebrating Jesus’s birthday. We have kept that tradition in that we fill stockings on St. Nick’s feast day. We always watch this great film:
and read some favorite picture books:
Country Angel Christmas, by Tomie de Paola, where St. Nicholas lives in heaven, not the North Pole,
several of the “Legend of Saint Nicholas” type books from the library,
The Baker’s Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale, by Aaron Shepard,
and, of course, The Night Before Christmas (although this one has caused some confusion in the younger kids…wait, does Santa come twice?)!
Thanks for hosting, ladies!