We started focusing on the Advent season a few years ago, which for us translates into gathering around our dining room table each Sunday in December and lighting a new candle on our "Advent's Kranz," which is German for Advent's wreath.
Four candles are arranged on the outside circle of greenery and one tall white one rises tall in the middle.
I know you are supposed to use certain colored ones, three purple and one pink, with the white in the middle, but I just use what I can easily find, usually green and red. I keep it simple. It's not about the exact color of a candle, but rather, it's about the tradition.
Yes, it's about the tradition, and keeping them simple helps me keep them for our family. Traditions are important for families, and not worrying about them being perfect is also crucial.
I write about real-life because that is where I live with three active boys at home -- one curious 9-year-old Gus and 15-year-old twins, Wesley and Mickael Josef. And now my college-age son Ryan and his fiancée Larissa are home for Christmas as well with my daughter Rachel and her husband Stefan due home soon!
So, last night being the third week of Advent, we sit down at the table at about 8:30 p.m. for a later meal. Again. But at least we are gathered, right? I ask Gus to light the first two candles of our Advent wreath, which he does with glee. He has this lighter that my son-in-law Stefan gave him for Christmas last year. Saying it's a lighter is actually an understatement because it's like a mini blow-torch. Active toys for my boys.
Gus lights every candle on our table except the third Advent candle, which I tell him to wait on until we have done the reading.
This is where it begins to get interesting. Gus decides to light the third candle before it is time and Mickael Josef blows it out, and Gus gets upset and they begin to argue about it and I say that Micki was right.
Then, with the reading beginning more craziness ensues. Try keeping three boys quiet for an Advent reading with their family. But we plow forward to read God's word in an Advent book. I have been buying new Advent books each year, or picking them up at churches when they have them available, and I now have about four different ones.
So, yesterday's reading was from Philippians 2: 1-7:
"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature [a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness."
We trade places as to who does the reading and last night it was my husband Chris who was reading, and while he was reading the passage, there were interruptions by the boys, noises and giggling, boys bugging one another and Gus playing with the blow-torch-like lighter, and the twins slurping their soup without spoons, and Chris got a bit frustrated with it all, the craziness, and he wanted to just stop. And I encouraged us to just keep reading, and one solution was to pass the Advent book around to have the boys read, to keep them active.
After we read the passage and the Scripture, and usually the kids help with the reading, we talk about the particular passage, and this time, we discussed the passage in Philippians and what it means, and what it says about Christ. The words "servant" and "humility" come up.
And the boys are half chuckling and half serious and the lighter is a distraction again. Which is all fine, I feel. They may not understand now the importance of these traditions, but maybe one day they will.
So, we continue. Knowing that traditions build roots for our families, they build a sense of bonding and belonging and grounding.
It's about the tradition, not about the practicing of the tradition being perfect.