Yes, our culture has Christmas on the brain! Department stores, commercials, discount stores, and Pinterest© bring out the Christmas swag before the first leaf turns from a summer green to an autumn gold. This far exceeds our sacred traditional time of preparing for Christmas, and at times the sacred and the secular cross paths in ways that may be confusing to children as they try to unpack the meaning of Christmas. It is difficult to get to Christmas without the Season of Advent, which occurs four weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
The word, Advent, comes from the Latin word adventus, which means "coming." Advent ushers in the beginning of the Christian year, offering us a time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. The season proclaims Christ’s anticipated coming again, as well as the coming of Christ as the infant Savior whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. At times, we may forget that the season of Advent emphasizes Christ’s coming, not merely his birth. We mark this time in preparation for the Incarnation, and also for the second coming of Christ and our inward soul-searching. What does this mean for our children?
The sights, scents, and music of Christmas, both sacred and secular, surround our children. How a family chooses to celebrate is their choice, and the family of God honors both the Incarnation and the coming of Christ. As people in ministry with children, we are to make sure that children experience the fullness of this Season of Advent by providing opportunities for them to learn and serve, resources that will enrich those opportunities, and experiences that will deepen their connection to God. Do the children that you serve know the stories of Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth? Do they participate in the liturgies of Advent? Do they practice preparation and anticipation? Do they understand the coming of the Messiah?
The retail world is going to prepare children for Santa and the reindeer, which is so much fun! As those who journey with children as they grow in faith, our role is to prepare them for the coming of Christ. Resources for journeying with our children can be found at http://ministrywithchildren.com/tag/advent/.