By Carrie Gress
It happens every year. Advent creeps up on me and I find myself digging out the candles a week late (sometimes two). But this year, I'm on it.
As the days grow darker outside, we are called to enkindle Christ's light in our hearts and homes starting on December 3rd. Here are 7 ideas for prepping for his arrival this year.
1 Winter Fire: Christmas with G.K. Chesterton by Ryan Whitaker Smith
This book just came out in August. I sampled the audible version to make sure it was all I hoped. And it was.
I'll admit that more than anything I just loved the name of this book. Winter Fire. It is part of a Chesterton quote: "Christ is not merely a summer sun for the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate." It captures so much of the season, our own poverty and thirst for the goodness and richness of Christ.
Author Ryan Whitaker Smith has compiled and organized the substantial essays that Chesterton wrote about Christmas. There are 31 entries for the month of December including devotional content, classic Illustrations, poems, pithy quotes, 19th-century party games, and classic Christmas recipes to help you get into the holiday spirit.
Not only is this a lovely devotional to spark your own winter fire, it could be a lovely gift.
2 A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander, edited by Thomas Hoffman
Although Caryll Houselander isn't as well known as G.K. Chesterton, her depth and insights bless everyone who encounters them.
Years ago, my husband and I read a portion of this treasure after dinner each Advent night. I hope to resurrect the practice again this year now that my children are older. Houselander's writing is poetic but also disarmingly simple.
3 Jesse Tree Sticker Set, Gratia Design Co.
I'll admit, I've never done the Jesse Tree well. For some reason, I always found it daunting. Perhaps it was my general allergy to crafts? There always seemed to be a lot of pieces that had to be pulled together across many days in the bustle of an already busy season.
But this year, I'm going to do it! Stephanie Roberts of Gratia Design Co. is helping me turn over a new leaf (or branch) with her 25-day Jesse Tree Sticker Set. The kit comes with an 8x10 Tree Print, sticker sheet with 25 symbols, and recommended daily scripture readings. No extra space required. No glue. And best of all, no glitter. Bless you, Stephanie.
4 Advent Calendars
I'm a huge fan of advent calendars. They have come back with a force over the last five years. I do, however, find them a bit too indulgent for Advent, which is supposed to be more of a "little Lent." There is nothing Lent-y about popping a new kind of chocolate into my mouth daily.
I do, however, love the idea of purchasing an Advent calendar in Advent and saving it for the right season -- Christmas. That is when we should roll out the feasting and allow ourselves to be delighted by a new bauble or tiny treat.
I just found the Bonne Maman 12 Days of Christmas Gift Set with tiny jams and spreads which captures the spirit better. Costco is currently selling it. Get them while they last.
For a do-it-yourself kind of Advent calendar, Anthropologie has the Ethel Wooden Advent Calendar and Magnolia has the Alpine House Wood Advent Calendar. These options are nice because you can place something like a scripture passage into each box or pocket during Advent and then add treats once Christmas arrives.
There are also fun DIY calendars at places like Etsy, including this Scandi Christmas Countdown.
5 Blessed Boards Advent Wreaths
Patrick is a true craftsman, using stunning cuts of wood, finished with a simple natural oil. Each piece has his signature cross cut into it somewhere.
These wreaths are a fantastic gift and quickly become beloved family heirlooms. Be sure to check out Patrick's other work. His cutting and charcuterie boards are functional works of art.
6 Hallow App Advent Novena
I joined Hallow a couple of years ago and use it daily, especially the rosary while driving or working on a mundane project when I can't finger beads. As those familiar with the app are aware, Hallow has a lot of great content, including special novenas in the run up to feasts or for special occasions.
Hallow is offering an Advent devotional this year called Advent Pray25 starting on the first Monday of Advent December 4. It is a unique way to pray with hundreds of thousands around the world as we focus on the peace, grace, wonder, mercy, and holiness of Christ's birth.
7 Beeswax Advent Candles
The Mercantile is offering 12" Beeswax Advent Candles this year. Although unscented, I love the hint of honey that lingers in the candles. This year, I am not digging out the nubs of Advent candles past. These fresh beauties are ready to go.
Now, if I could just remember where I stored my Advent wreath....