There are trees to trim, stockings to fill, cookies to bake, presents to wrap and Christmas cards to be mailed out. It is the rush of the last week before Christmas. Stress levels heighten and patience becomes thin. All of the quiet, preparation, and peace sought after during the Advent season seem a far-off reality as these last days approach. The child in the manger almost becomes a second thought as we see our to-do list grow.
If you are like me, you may be thinking how can we keep our focus during these last days. How can we continue to help our family prepare for the greatest gift of all, God’s own Son? How can we keep our eyes fixed upon the manger?
While none of us want to add any more hustle and bustle, there are simple things we can do to help keep Christ as the reason for the season. Perhaps, just pick one thing that suits your family.
Ask the children what they will give to Jesus for Christmas. Maybe it is a card, a letter, a prayer or acts of kindness. Depending on their age, help them pick something out that they can gift to baby Jesus on Christmas Day.
It is not too late to start a sacrifice manger, have the children place pieces of twine or yarn in a manger for their good deeds, acts of kindness, and displays of virtue. Filling up the manger, so the Christ Child has a soft bed to be placed in on Christmas morning.
When writing Christmas letters have the children participate in it. Drawing a picture or writing a letter to an elderly or homebound family member. Decide on a charity that your family would like to donate to, keeping the kids involved by having them donate a small amount of their own money.
Pray the O Antiphons each day, which began on December 17. There are seven antiphons prayed during the Octave before Christmas.
As a family decide to give something up the last week of Advent.
Add some form of family prayer in the evening, a decade of the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or Scripture readings of the day.
In a house full of kids, noise, and chaos this may be difficult to do but have a set quiet time in the evening with the lights dimmed. A reminder that we await the great moment when the light pierced the darkness.
As excited as the children are to open presents, try to have the conversation and focus leading up to Christmas directed on the birth of Christ. Read the story of the nativity as part of bedtime prayers on Christmas Eve, whether from Scripture or a favorite Christmas book.
Many families attend Christmas Eve Mass as do we, so we started the tradition of going to Church in the afternoon on Christmas Day and singing Christmas hymns in front of the manger. The kids pick out some of their favorites from the hymnal and each say a prayer before the crèche. Enjoy a birthday cake for baby Jesus and sing Happy Birthday on Christmas Day. Have the children act out the nativity.
In the midst of the boxes and bows, if we keep our gaze fixed upon the manger and our hearts in prayerful anticipation we will find the greatest gift come Christmas morning.