Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent, the countdown begins...

It's officially here!

Advent, 2007

Last Sunday was the first day of Advent, a birthday and the celebration of a brand new year in the church's liturgical calendar. We are in the weeks of great anticipation for an event like no other, an event where people turn their hearts to the things that matter most; Faith, Family and Friends.

It's the season we prepare our hearts, viewing all the goodness surrounding us at the same time from our fellow man, along with the sincere and good intentions of family and friends who we come together with, in special ways this time of year. It's an overall presence of peace and goodwill. And, it's wishing one another "Merry Christmas" and offering reflections of this past year, as the new year approaches for new beginnings, fresh starts, and ultimate renewal. One can't help but get into that festive spirit, an ultimate longing accompanying it, for all the goodness the Advent and Christmas seasons ushers forth to give hope to all mankind.

Advent is a time to prepare alright, the Christmas boxes and bins are scattered about, ready to be unpacked and placed once more about the house. It's time to use our Jesse tree, our Advent calendar and our assorted special traditional items we love dearly and have come to associate with family memories.

"Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."

Yes, Advent is a time to "prepare" for Christmas, and one of the great times, is revisiting the Annunciation, a feast day on December 8th when we recall when the Angel Gabriel came to visit a humble woman named Mary... This is the moment where time stood still, where the angel awaited her response, where it all began, what would become the greatest event known to man with the greatly anticipated birth of Christ.

From the trickle trunk,
she is our angel Gabriel right now.

This week we will celebrate our traditional St. Nicholas feast day, by setting out our shoes the night before in anticipation of St. Nicholas visiting our home during the night. This is a Dutch tradition, and a European custom still practiced today.

Our family loves this occasion where we also pay tribute to the "real" Santa Claus, the saintly man who began it all. December 6th, we will venture to our local Dutch store where St. Nicholas and Zwarte Pieter will be present, a fun time too for capturing a photo the children love, but no one dares to get close to Zwarte Pieter, for fear of a possible black coal gift presented to them (laugh).

Seriously, if you aren't aware who St. Nicholas was, a godly man who really lived and walked this earth, you may enjoy a visit to the St. Nicholas Center HERE for a wonderful read with plenty of historical background, miracles associated with him, fun crafts, games, baking recipes, and so much more. This is a great feast day anyone can adopt, some families we know even give their children gifts this day in lieu of Christmas day to keep the focus on the "reason for the season".

Meanwhile, shhhhhhh, the golden chocolate coins are ready for the shoes, and other assorted items of yummy delights. I must ensure though the children place a "clean shoe" at the fireplace, so shoe shining will be a side detail this week. :-)

Jingle, jingle....St. Nicholas is coming to town...