After our first year in Rwanda, Mike and I went back to Canada for Christmas. It was lovely.
We realized that being in a foreign country, with holidays that we don’t know about until they arrive, and seasons that have an unfamiliar pattern, we needed a way to mark the passage of the year; a rhythm that would be the same for us no matter what country we find ourselves in a given month. This was pre-Beatrix, but we were also thinking about what traditions we wanted to have that would become important to our children, and help them move between homes and cultures as well.
I don’t especially feel bad about being away at Christmas. Christmas, and the months leading up to it, are filled with too much commercialism that makes me crazy. However, I love the time of celebration and of being with family, and it seems a little surreal that it can be December without eating too much decadent food, without extra visiting, and without the anticipation that comes as we look forward to the 25th.
The first tradition that will be part of our yearly rhythm is celebrating Advent. It makes the time leading up to Christmas special. If you’ve never been out of North America, its probably hard to imagine November and December without lots of sugar, constantly hearing Christmas carols, decorations in homes, the stores, the streets, extra shopping (or pride that you got it all done early), gift exchanges, egg nog, Christmas parties, etc, etc, etc. But there is none of that here except what we create ourselves. Advent is a way for us to spread out the celebration and anticipation.
Advent reminds us of Israel, waiting for the Messiah to come. The most important part for me is remembering that although we are still in the midst of so much brokenness and injustice, that will not be the final word.
Last year we made an advent wreath, and we lit the candles each evening as we ate supper, and played “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” after we finished eating. We loved the ritual, and looked forward to it each day!
This year, we started making an advent wreath, and then realized the plants we were using were covered in bugs, and both of us had a few tiny bites. Needless to say, it went to the compost pile.
We had many pieces of bamboo left over from our fence – so this year we have an Advent raft.
We also made an advent calendar. Apparently, that is something people do – but all I knew before this year was pre-made ones with the waxy chocolates in them that we got as kids. So we made our advent calendar with little notes and pieces of chocolate in them, and it has been great fun to open them each day.
Its exciting to think of how we will adapt these traditions to be meaningful to Beatrix as she grows.
So, to those of you reading:
May you enjoy the traditions that you are a part of in this season,
May you enjoy the celebration time with family and friends, and
In the midst of whatever brokenness and pain you might be experiencing, may you be reminded anew that there will be a day when He will wipe every tear away, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.