Every time a colleague in ministry wants to bemoan the challenge of a pandemic Advent and Christmas and their waning creative energy I counter with “but you don’t have to come up with this on your own! There’s this great new book called Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas and you should buy it for every family in your congregation.” I have made this declaration probably a dozen times over the month of October, as clergy work to solidify Advent preaching and teaching themes for the coming season.
It is true that this Christmas will be strange this year, how could it not when the year itself has been so incredibly unpredictable and weird. However, I am an Advent and Christmas optimist, especially this year. The liturgies of capitalism are crumbling–there will be no crowded malls, retailers desperate to save themselves are already offering up their greatest deals weeks before Black Friday and our beloved communities have not been financially untouched by the economic impact of Covid. Shopping our brains out won’t heal what is broken in us this year. I think this year more than any other people’s hearts are open to a new liturgy, new rituals and stories to make meaning of this story we are living. I believe this year, people are profoundly open to a new story, the old story of faith. I believe that people want a faith that can meet them in the muck of this year and help make meaning out of mess, beauty out of what is broken.
That is why I find Traci K Smith’s newest book Faithful Families for Advent and Christmas: 100 Ways to Make the Season Sacred the perfect resource for families and churches looking to make Christmas meaningful at home. This book includes short reflections on a different aspect of the Christmas story for families to use each week, opportunities to practice generosity and gratitude and prayers to make small moments holy moments.
The best part for this pandemic-weary mother of littles is that this collection of prayers, liturgy and practices doesn’t require I have Pinterest Jedi Master level of craft skills or the creativity of a PTA mom hyped up on Dr Pepper. They meet the small moments and ordinary Christmas practices we already have in place. There’s a prayer for decorating the house. How beautifully simple is that, that in the absence of a church sanctuary hanging of the greens service, we can make holy our own hanging of the greens? There are activities in this book but none of them require more than the very basic of supplies you can find around the house.
I love the teaching on generosity that encourages giving year round, the spiritual practices for decorating and the reflection question to help reflect on the year and season and make meaning as a family. The great thing is that they activities, reflections and conversation can be re-used each year as your kids age and your family changes. They are timeless without being bland, dynamic without being unmanageable. I look forward to using this book this year and in the years to come.
If you are interested in other Advent resources for families you can check out my list of favorite 25 Children’s Books for Advent and Christmas. For more original content you can’t find here on the blog, sign up for my twice a month newsletter. Reflections on faith and living, book recommendations and other good, nerdy fun. Sign up HERE.