“Everybody in the Austin family is excited on the first day of December because every day for twenty-four days they will do something special to prepare for the twenty-fifth day, Christmas Day, the most joyful day in the whole year.”
And so begins The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas by Madeleine L’engle.
I read an old copy of this book as child ( it was published in 1964) and the memories of Mother and her Advent preparations, her Advent activities, stayed with me.
When I became a mother myself, I had a vision for Advent already in mind. Preparing as a family for Christmas. Making and pulling out an Advent calendar. Making cookies. Assembling a crèche or nativity scene. Crafts. Cooking. Carols. Books. Music.
And prayers and masses and movies, in a modern Catholic family twist.
There is a danger, however, that Advent can become yet another time of busy-ness. Of being task oriented. Of endless to do lists.
“Advent, John could tell you, is the name for the four weeks of preparation and thought that lead up to Christmas day.”
Preparation and thought. Not necessarily frantic activity and compulsion to do everything that Mrs Austin, Mother in the book, does.
“The kitchen is a big wandery room that turns corners and as kinds of unexpected nooks and crannies. In the dining room end a fire is crackling merrily, and the smell of applewood mingles with the smell of pancakes and maple syrup, and hot chocolate with marshmallows.”
In our current house, our kitchen opens onto our dining area, it is light and symmetrical. The teens woke this morning to freshly made pikelets, tea in my variety of cute and fanciful teapots and our basket of Advent books. We lit the first candle in the Advent wreath.
So, yes, I do the Mrs Austin-ish Advent things. Well, some of them. Well, my own version.
But ultimately I know that Advent preparation and thought and prayer should be interior as well as exterior…Holy Mass, the Novena for the Immaculate Conception, the sacrament of penance, the rosary.
Even if we don’t do all the Advent activities, the crafts, the cooking, the books…
We prepare and think and pray.
We find that star, the Light of Christ, in our faithfulness . In His Love.
“One star is brighter and more sparkling than any of the others. ‘The Christmas star,’ Vicky whispers. Its light seems to shine right down into her heart.”