The flashing lights are up in the cul-de-sac we live in - the neighbours have started to decorate their houses for Christmas. I always think of Advent as a little but like Lent - a time of waiting before the big festival that is Christmas or Easter. My thoughts on the period are that we should be a little bit austere in our tastes at this time so that we can more fully appreciate the celebrations. Our Christmas tree goes up the Saturday before Christmas, so that'll be on the 18th this year, but there are already Christmas trees aplenty adorning front windows everywhere. It seems to me that "Christmas" has become a season, much like Autumn, and has to be stretched out over a huge period - a little of November, all of December and some of January!
I much prefer to think of the Twelve Days of Christmas, beginning on the day itself and ending a few days after New Year in January. That is enough for me - and I am not being miserable, but more realistic! Children get so excited these days about things that it seems silly to keep them hyped up for weeks on end, building up their expectations. At the other end of the spectrum, a friend of mine let her children believe for years that Father Christmas brought all their decorations on Christmas Eve, so she and her husband decorated the house after they had gone to bed that night - inspired woman!
In the middle of all the decorations and gift giving, the matter of the babe in the manger often gets overlooked. That is really what it is all about, and we, as a Christian family, will be doing all we can to keep that at the centre of our celebrations.
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