I was raised Catholic. I was also raised in a small town in Mexico full of religious and cultural traditions. The two or three weeks leading up to Christmas were full of local events. The dark and chilly nights didn’t keep the kids from gathering in the local Catholic Church courtyard to break pinatas. That’s right, pinatas were, for me, symbols of Christmas, not birthday celebrations. The smells of punch (a drink, filled with seasonal fruit and cinnamon) and hot cocoa filled the air. Selected streets were saturated with carolers and people reenacting the nativity with Joseph and Mary looking for a room in the Inn. AND, of course, there was live band music and people dancing to the latest hits of folky band music. Oh, and how can I forget, the streets that were decorated with strings of paper cut outs. I still remember looking up and watching the wind blowing these colorful and cheerful cut outs. Then on Christmas Eve, you went to church, late in the evening and afterward you went home and had dinner…close to midnight!
All that to say, traditions were a way of life for me growing up. But few, if any, actually pointed me to Christ. When I became a Christian, in my effort to honor the Lord I did away with all these traditions. I actually became a bit cynical about it. But when Jon and I began having children we realized we needed to consider the place traditions should have in our home, especially at Christmas time.
So the journey began for me. I would look at the stockings so many of you have in your homes, and just thinking how much junk I would have to buy to fill them made me tired. So I ditched that idea real quick. Then I would look at my traditions…and well, piñatas weren’t going to cut it. As the internet made more resources available I began reading about this thing called “Advent.” Then I read a short little book called Treasuring God in our Traditions by Noel Piper. This book transformed my thinking about traditions in general and for sure convicted me about the need and blessing of doing Advent devotions.
Initially these devotions were primarily just mine. Later, I found something I could do with the boys and later Jon joined in. Nowadays, it is the thing we do together as a family. The boys take turns lighting the candles and Jon reads from our favorite book, Behold the Lamb of God.
Breaking pinatas for Christmas are a distant memory for me now…and they’re quickly being replaced with the sight of squirmy boys being captured (and bored) by the words of an old, old story that happened two thousand years ago…
Join me tomorrow as we start the countdown to Christmas here at the Strengthening Women blog! I will bring you excerpts of Advent readings for the next 25 days (I might regret this on day…5. Ha.)!
Behold the Lamb of God by Russ Ramsey. It’s a narrative. It works great for family or personal readings. Ideal for older children (6 and up.)
God Rest Ye Merry by Douglas Wilson. It reads like a blog. It has different topics and short prayers. Good for personal reading.
Come, Thou Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas Edited by Nancy Guthrie. These are daily essays/sermons from popular theologians (dead and alive), like Spurgeon, Piper, and Martin Loyd-Jones. This is also ideal for personal reading.
I don’t have much for little children, what I used is no longer in print or available. Any suggestions of materials you have tried and recommend? Let us know in the comments.