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Last week we decked the halls for Advent. I was finding new places for all of the dishes, clocks, books, plants and general household stuff in order to make room for the nativities, candles and Advent books. Not to mention the actual furniture that had to be moved in order to make space for a Christmas tree. This was causing me some amount of stress (I’ve mentioned that I dislike process, yes?).

But even as I wrestled to make peace with the household shuffle, it occurred to me that the same thing is required of me, within my life and self, within my very heart. The things within me that become stale, even contemptuous, from familiarity need to be moved aside and rearranged. The echo from the resulting spaciousness of making room resounds with the watchful waiting, anticipation, and preparation of Advent.

I am very prone to being an innkeeper, or one of his guests, who is already very snug and warm in his own bed. And who is quite unwilling to give up his coziness for a trail-weary, pregnant woman seeking rest. But as I watch and wait for the birth of the Son of God, I know that when He comes I want Him to find a place prepared for Him inside of me. And that requires an intention of making room.

I’m sharing here some of the things that help our family to make room to welcome the Christ Child. We aren’t perfect in our use of them, we get lazy and don’t follow through with Advent calendars, and I yell at the kiddos for playing with the nativity figures (see above photo…), but year after year these traditions help our family to keep our eyes focused on the coming light.

Advent Tree  A few years ago we started buying our tree at the beginning of Advent. We put lights on it, a symbol of watchful waiting, but no other decorations. On Christmas Eve we add all of the fun baubles and trinkets. It feels kinda like decorating for a birthday party–which, of course, it is.

Next year I hope to add a new family tradition. We have a Jesse tree devotion book that our family reads from every day. I’ve been working for years on a hand-stitched Advent tree skirt to go with our readings. In the pockets will go felt, stuffed ornaments that go with each reading. And every day in Advent we’ll get to put a new ornament on our tree to remind us about God’s big, big plan from the very beginning for Jesus’s birth.

Progressive Nativity We love to use our nativity set to tell the story of Jesus’ birth. During Advent, our nativity consists of Joseph and Mary and a candle. The angel and baby Jesus go up in “heaven” (on top of the fridge), the shepherd and his sheep go in the “field” (the plants by the kitchen sink), and the Wise Men go to the east (down in the basement).

On Christmas morning the baby Jesus shows up under the Christmas tree. At some point during the day, the angel will visit with the shepherd by the sink in the field and they’ll join the nativity. For the next 12 days until Epiphany, the wise men travel up the stairs and through the house until they reach the baby Jesus.

Really great Christmas books Our family really likes books, what can I say? Every year the first gift our kiddos open is a new book about the Christmas story and we read it together before doing anything else. Here are some of our very favorites:

The Nativity by Julie Vivas

How Many Miles to Bethlehem? by Kevin Crossley-Holland

The Christmas Story by Gennady Spirin

The Nativity by Francesa Crespi

Usborne Advent Nativity Book by Felicity Brooks

This is the one they’re getting this year. (Don’t tell!) I’m so excited about it.

And really great Christmas music We found this last year and have been listening to it over and over again for the past week. I love to hear my four-year-old walk around singing “Glory be to God on high! And to the earth be peace!”

And while looking up the link for the CD, I noticed there is now a book, too! So excited to check that out.

St. Nicholas Day We don’t talk much about Santa Claus in our house, but we do tell stories about Saint Nicholas, and celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. Dear friends of ours have a St. Nicholas Day tradition consisting of a puppet show and homemade doughnuts. It’s become a special part of our Advent season and we feel blessed to be invited to join them for it every year.

On the evening before St Nicholas Day, the kiddos set out their shoes for St. Nicholas and in the morning they find their St. Nicholas stockings stuffed with treats and trinkets in their shoes. It’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about gift-giving and teach our children what it means to give good gifts.

Advent Wreath I’ve searched for 10 years (yes, really) for an Advent wreath that isn’t saccharine or trite. You can imagine how truly delighted I was to get one of these as a gift. We’re excited to create some new Advent traditions this year with our new “wreath”.

** Friends, please be assured that these resources are things our family has acquired over the course of many years. None of these have been sent to me as solicitations, and I don’t make any earthly profit if you follow one of my links to purchase them.