Growing up, Mom made a big deal out of advent.
Advent, religiously, is a time of pregnant expectation. From a Latin word that means “coming,” it’s the beginning of the church year starting about four weeks before Christmas when Christians celebrate all the signs that signaled Christ’s birth: prophecies of Christ’s coming, Elizabeth’s pregnancy and John’s birth, Mary’s pregnancy and the run-up to the trip to Bethlehem. Advent is also about the preparation for the Second Coming, when Christ returns to Earth in the final days.
According to Wikipedia, the progression of the season may be marked with an Advent calendar, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. As a family of mostly German Lutherans, we adopted this practice, too.
When I was growing up, I remember lighting Advent candles on a wreathed centerpiece at dinnertime. We would light one more candle each week until all five (including the white one for Christmas) was lighted.
We also had a felt wall hanging in the shape of a Christmas tree with 24 hooks on it and 24 corresponding felt ornaments. My sister, brother and I were always jockeying for position about who got to put up the day’s ornament. In theory, it was always the biggest honor to hang the star at the top of the tree on Christmas Eve, but in practice, the best day of December for me was Dec. 23: My birthday. It didn’t matter which ornament got into which pocket on pretty much any other day, but the baby Jesus was always in the pocket No. 23 because that’s the day this baby was born.
Now that calendar hangs in my sister’s house, and my two oldest nephews began fighting a week ago about who gets to put up baby Jesus on Dec. 23 (“we still do it on that date because of you,” my sister told me — isn’t nice to know some things never change). A compromise was reached by telling them that putting up the last ornament on Christmas Eve is as cool as putting up baby Jesus on Dec. 23.
(Not everyone thinks so, but if we can settle the war that way, then so be it.)
On Christmas, please wish the Savior of the world a happy birthday. But on Dec. 23rd, birthday wishes will be accepted here.