My goals for Advent are to do more than nothing, but to keep celebrations simple enough that I stand more of a chance of following through with my plans. Chris can attest that my goals can be bigger than my abilities!
We bought new Advent candles for our brass wreath (see to the right on the mantle), which we plan to light each Sunday night and to say the applicable prayers. Also we bought an Advent calendar with little chocolates (see to the left on the mantle). Some of our friends will be amused to realize that some Catholics do not approve of these chocolate Advent calendars because Advent is a penitential season, which makes Chris and me "liberal" on an issue for once! At least for now . . . . Anyway, we made a bit of a mistake tonight because we started the chocolate calendar, as today was the first day of Advent, forgetting that the calendar really counts down December 1-25, so we started it a few days early.
I decided to try doing a Jesse Tree this year. I think John is just enough older really to be able to follow the Bible stories, even better than he did with our Lenten Cross. I made this decision spontaneously today, so had little time for preparation, and we don't own an actual prefabricated Jesse Tree. Instead, I photocopied the images and Scripture citations from "Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in the Domestic Church" (Ignatius Press). I then pasted the pages onto Christmas wrapping paper before cutting out the images as ornaments.
Each evening, we will read that today's Bible story, then hang the ornament on the Jesse Tree (which is a faux Christmas tree I had Chris pull down from the attic). Tonight began the story of David, son of Jesse, being chosen by God through the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel. John truly listened quietly and then leapt with recognition at the final line of the story, realizing that the boy who was chosen--David--is the same boy he knows so well who was small, who herded sheep, who killed Goliath, who played the harp, who became king . . .
We also put out the nativity set today. The kids were having tremendous fun with it right away and I realized that--since we own an unbreakable set and we put it down low for the purpose of the kids using it--our nativity set will not look pretty and "accurate" at any point this Advent season. The Wise Men won't be marching from the East, the shepherds won't stay with their sheep, who knows where the cattle will be at any given time. But that is okay!