The cake read, “Baby is on the way!” For a moment our children, gathered in the hearth, stared in stunned amazement.
“You’re having a baby?!” Hoops and hollers, shouts of joy, and myriad questions followed. The news spawned many conversations as we recalled previous pregnancies, details of deliveries (ouch!), and the babyhoods of the already-born Hahn children. That was seventeen years ago, but this year, we share the same joy as we are expecting our twelfth grandchild, a boy due on Christmas Day!
The anticipation of the growth and birth of a child is a marvelous backdrop for pondering the mystery of the incarnation and the birth of our Lord Jesus this Advent. We have the privilege of doing what the people of God were commanded to do over and over. Throughout the Old Testament, the people of God were told to remember what God had done: “The Lord saved you. Remember…” (Ex 13:3). “These days should be remembered and kept” (Esther 9:28). Continually, the prophets recounted the times God “remembered” His covenant with His people and moved ahead with His plan of salvation. Even Jesus at the Last Supper commanded His disciples to “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Then He sent the Spirit of Remembrance to the disciples to help them recall what Jesus had said and done.
Mother Church leads us as we commemorate the saving acts of God throughout the liturgical year, beginning with Advent. We mothers, in a special way, seem to have the spirit of remembrance, like the Holy Spirit, preparing for and celebrating special holy days, family birthdays, and anniversaries. Just as we prepare particular decorations, smells, and tastes our families associated with celebrations, so Mother Church welcomes us into the new liturgical year with familiar sights, sounds, colors, tastes, and smells that assist us in remembering the wonders of the story of our salvation.
Consistently, our best family times during Advent followed supper. We sang Advent hymns of anticipation, such as “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” “The King of Glory,” and “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” saving the Christmas carols for the Christmas season. Then we lit the Advent Wreath and listened to the day’s Gospel reading. Following prayer, one child unwrapped a piece of the nativity set and placed it at the scene. Day by day the nativity scene filled.
Each year, we drew names on the first Sunday of Advent to discover our secret Kristkindl–someone in the family whom we serve throughout Advent. It was always a challenge not to figure out who our Kristkindl was, to save that as a surprise, but I think we usually knew. And each kind act meant that someone could take a straw from a basket and helped to fill a manger for a softer bed for Jesus.
This year, Scott and I will share some of these traditions, though none of our children are living at home. We still need to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Savior. However, we’ll look forward to sharing more traditions when our family gathers during the days before Christmas.
Though TV and newspaper ads urge us to spend more money than we have (on things we don’t need), the Lord calls us to spend our time and energies in other ways during this season. We’ll gather gifts to share with disadvantaged youths through the local St. Nicholas Fund. We’ll bundle up and carol throughout the neighborhood, proclaiming the message of God’s salvation in song and cheering the hearts of those we visit. And we’ll share some of our tithe money with our children, so that they can meet more needs where they live during Advent. Then we’ll share what each one has done.
We have the opportunity to draw our children’s – and their children’s — hearts ever closer to the Lord through our own anticipation of Christ’s birth. Of the various things that “need” to be done for a “successful” Christmas–baking, buying, wrapping, caroling, cleaning, offering hospitality–what are the truly needful things? We need time to pray–to remember God’s work in our lives–and to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Savior.
Let’s make this Advent a special time of remembering God’s work in history and in our family’s life. In the future, our children may not recall specific gifts, parties, or TV specials during Advent, but they will remember meaningful family times, led by the Spirit of Remembrance, the Holy Spirit.