Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Some Advent Ideas

I've always loved Advent. Something ingrained in me perhaps with a Roman Catholic education or just a natural enjoyment of this time of year, I prefer the cold! 
I remember having an Advent party with friends from Church when I was a new Christian - don't think anyone else really knew what I was going on about but they came along anyway! 
Ever since Matilda was small, we've tried to make the waiting, preparation and expectancy of this season part of our family traditions. It's hard to reign kids in at Christmas, particularly as they start rehearsing nativity services and Christmas songs straight after half term....but having this gradual build seems to work for our 2 and is now expected!

Tomorrow we will get our Advent decorations out of the loft and most importantly, the pocket Advent Calendar my aunt made for me the Christmas Matilda was born. Inside each pocket will be a chocolate for each child and on some of the days, there will be an activity, to enable us to engage with Advent as a family. It may be something fun, something practical, something for others, something spiritual and reflective, a little gift. It's always fun and the kids enjoy finding out the daily surprise or task as much as eating the chocolate (I kid myself!!)

So much is bound up in this season for me, remembering being heavily, heavily pregnant 10 years ago today and waiting for this long awaited baby to arrive. She eventually turned up 14 days late but it makes this season even more pertinent. 

There are some fab ideas on the London Diocese website for daily activities with children here and our list appear below, designed around our schedule and commitments. Feel free to steal!

I also love the ideas on Rachel Held Evan's blog from a few years ago here

And you should listen to this album - Behold the Lamb of God 

Happy Advent!

Advent plan:

Sunday 27th November - (late) Stir Up Sunday – Christmas Cake
Monday 28th November -
Tuesday 29th November –
Wednesday 30th November - Decorate the house for Advent/Family Prayer and Candles
Thursday 1st December - New Toothbrushes for all!
Friday 2nd December – (PCC Drinks) New Christmas book
Saturday 3rd December – Family Breakfast / Sibling gifts (Church Christmas Party)

Sunday 4th December – Breakfast Church
Monday 5th December (Youth Club)
Tuesday 6th December Focus on St Nicholas – gifts for CAP/foodbank
Wednesday 7th December (ReGen) Christmas movie and Chinese night
Thursday 8th December Tree – Decorate for Christmas/Family Prayer and Candles
Friday 9th December Family dinner OUT!
Saturday 10th December (CAP event) Matilda birthday party 5-8

Sunday 11th December – CAP Sunday  Fabian birthday party
Monday 12th December (Alice out pm)
Tuesday 13th December Hot Chocolate and marshmallows
Wednesday 14th December Matilda Birthday Tea!
Thursday 15th December Pressie wrapping and school cards – saying thank you.
Friday 16th December Toy clear out – donate to charity
Saturday 17th December Family Breakfast and Play (Messy Church) Cub sleepover

Sunday 18th December – Nativity service Baking afternoon – ready for delivering to neighbours on Wednesday.
Monday 19th December – 1 new download – song, app, game max £2
Tuesday 20th December – Christmas around the world (themed dinner)
Wednesday 21st December Street Christmas card delivery
Thursday 22nd December Christmas Tree sleepover
Friday 23rd December Grandma and Grandad and Gran arrive – Theatre trip!
Saturday 24th December Christmas Eve box

Sunday 25th December – woo hoo!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

I am not a blogger...

For the 4th time in as many years, my attempts at some kind of daily Advent discipline have ended up lost in a frantic household, forgetfulness, chocolate coin wrappers and screen overtime.

I should probably learn, but I don't. My life is not a pretty blog of creative parenting, spiritual disciplines and daily space for charting it all. It's a place of limited space, tiredness, differing priorities and beautiful chaos. This week particularly, despite no London commute for me, it's been a mixed bag of essay marking, sick children, school events, cabin fever and manic youth work, plus some quiet times of writing cards, filing and other necessary stuff which quite frankly didn't stir anything very profound! The realisation (maybe I'm slow but I'm also a bit of a silly idealist) is that those who do daily blogging are giving it far more time, across the whole of the year, that I will ever have, or want to have. The realisation too that, much as I love to write, I'm not overcome with the need to write in the way that those whose blogs I follow seem to be.

I'm a resourcer, I like to find things, try things and share things. So I'll stick with that. I'm more interested in connection and conversation and at this time of year, there are enough other Advent blogs and hashtags trying to engage us so I don't need to add to the list just for my own guilt inducing lunacy.

So, apologies if you've returned here since last weekend hoping for something else on my self imposed advent journey. As I head into my daughter's ninth birthday weekend with climbing wall parties to manage and cakes to make, party bags and celebrations to put together, I acknowledge I've failed one task, but not in the things that are really important. So I'll pick myself up and get back in the saddle again when I'm next ready to write. I'm not a blogger....well, not every day anyway!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Advent Daily #6 Traditions

A day off from posting yesterday - very necessary as I don't think I had a spare minute in the day to write anything! Having written the day before about hurrying, I fell under that spell and rushed from one thing to another and collapsed about midnight....and now I'm wide awake at 3.30am having probably eaten something I shouldn't. So in a way, I haven't missed a day, am just posting late!

But it's a welcome bit of space none the less. I have done some catching up on Advent blogs that I had bookmarked for future reference, one of those being from our friend Jack who blogs at knoxpriest.com. He says this:

The seasons of the Christian year lead us into depths that human beings will neither exhaust nor fully comprehend. The essence of any God-given mystery is that there is always some new dimension awaiting our discovery. We will never touch the bottom of this sea. 
Yet each season of the Christian year invites a deeper discovery of the mystery of salvation given through Jesus. Entering Advent, Christmas, Lent, or Easter is not simply a rote rehearsal of what we already know about Jesus. Each season summons us to explore that which we have not yet seen about the beauty and mystery of God.

Under today's word of Tradition, I've been wondering how those things we do year in, year out, bring depth to our Christian year. Certainly at Christmas it's particularly noticeable but each of us has our own different and distinctive ways. Just as each season of the Christian year shouldn't just become a repetition of what we did last year, so too our Advent and Christmas traditions should form a reflective basis for our own deepening faith. 

Yesterday I took my kids (and M's friend P) to see a production of A Christmas Cracker, performed by the Riding Lights Theatre Company. In amongst the great storytelling, funny slapstick comedy, songs and puppets was a realisation - that a great story is where you always find a nugget of undiscovered truth in amongst all the drama and embellishments and hyperbole.
The setting of the show was a stable, not in Bethlehem but a field somewhere in England, owned by Mrs McGinty and the storyteller and her sidekick dog shelter there for the night. Mrs McGinty wants a story all of her own, and the two visitors proceed to tell the story of Jesus birth and those who visited him - the marginalised, the unexpected, the wise and the celestial. An age old, traditional story and one which certainly the 8 and 9 year olds in my company already had a good grasp of, embellishments and all. But the comments of P afterwards showed how the traditional story had come alive in a new way: "So, what she's saying is that, if Jesus had been born now, I could have been one of the first people to visit him?" she says.......#sniff

The Coming

And God held in his handA small globe. Look, he said.The son looked. Far off,As through water, he sawA scorched land of fierceColour. The light burnedThere; crusted buildingsCast their shadows; a brightSerpent, a riverUncoiled itself, radiantWith slime.
                 On a bareHill a bare tree saddenedThe sky. Many peopleHeld out their thin armsTo it, as though waitingFor a vanished AprilTo return to its crossed Boughs. The son watchedThem. Let me go there, he said.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Advent Daily #4 - Hurry

Today's word is HURRY....

Hurrying is a hard thing to avoid as a working parent. I always feel like I'm on catch up. The kids pick up on it. My big girl, nearly 9, regularly asks on a Sunday "What are we doing after church?" - and her preferred answer to the question is "We're coming home and not going out again."
In the midst of busy family life and in a clergy household, we still need to learn again how to slow down and do Sabbath, to do nothing, to do rest. To live without the TO DO list.
The newness of commuting to my new job at St Mellitus hasn't worn off yet - I love the 1 hour 15 minute journey I get on the train and then the tube each way on a Monday and Thursday. It gives me space in the day which I haven't been able to use before now. I travelled a lot in my last job, but it was all in my own timings as I was usually driving. So I could take a back route, or press the accelerator pedal harder. But now I'm within the train timetable. There's nothing I can do to make my transportation go any faster. And it's making me view time differently. It's full of opportunity, to read, listen to music, sleep, write, think, chat.
As I've been thinking about this word, I came across this beautiful post from Ruth Haley Barton which I share with you today.
Take it slow: https://www.transformingcenter.org/2015/11/entering-advent-hurry-wait/

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Advent Daily #3

Today's word is WINDOW

I picked the words for these daily blogs rather at random, a bit of a Mallet's Mallet word association exercise! The inspiration for this work came via a Facebook post in which my former employer, Chelmsford Diocese, was unveiling their building's Advent Calendar, using the front windows to countdown the days until Christmas Day.

The daily windows of an Advent Calendar can perhaps hold another meaning - of transparency, of opening ourselves up to this revelation of Christ's coming, perhaps also being more honest and vulnerable about how he might find us at this particular point in our life.