Birth of a Child: weeks 1 and 2 of Advent

I am so far behind. It’s the second week of Advent already. I’ve been spending time writing—well, channeling two little girls who are doing the writing—a story about the death of a child and how other children feel and what they need in the aftermath.

But perhaps that’s not far off the mark. Because for Christians, this Advent time is about children, and getting ready for the birth of a child. And for all of us—regardless of spiritual leanings or none—it’s about how we get ready when we are waiting on the birth of a child in our own family—like waiting on my granddaughter who was born five weeks ago.

What holiday traditions for children do you or did you create?

For the FIRST WEEK in Advent, which was last week, we can look to family that came before. When I taught religious education, I would have students choose a person from the Bible, read that person’s story, design a simple ornament that represents them, and then hang it on the classroom Jesse Tree. Why a “Jesse Tree”? Because—and this is from the Christian tradition again—Jesus came from “the root of Jesse.”

In your own family, you could tell stories to your children about parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts—living or dead—that came before. You might color simple paper ornaments with a design that symbolizes that person. For a farmer, perhaps a cow or barn, for example.

But we are now in the SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT. So, what to do now? Preparing. We get ready. Don’t we prepare a room or a place in a room for the new child? We want the space to be safe and bright and cozy.

When my children were growing, we put out an empty manger. (The manger was where the papier mache’ Jesus would eventually lay.) How did the children prepare the place? By doing anonymous acts of kindness throughout the remaining days of Advent. For each kindness, they could take a piece of straw (which we placed nearby) and put it in the manger, creating a cozy bed.

It is only 4:30pm and already very dark. No wonder candles play a central role in many traditions this time of year. Use real candles and light the first and second ones for the First and Second Weeks of Advent. Or make four paper candles for a wall or bulletin board as I did and have a child tape on a ‘flame’ as each week passes and the ‘birth’ draws near.

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