I love my in-laws. Seriously! I, on a pretty regular basis, hear the craziest horror stories from friends about in-law issues. I simply don't understand. I literally won the in-law lottery with mine. They are two of the most amazing people I have ever met. Really! (And I'm not just saying that because I know they read my blog).
Okay, it does take me a few days to get everything in my kitchen back to where it needs to be after they come for a visit. However, as we have previously established, I am a HUGE kitchen Nazi! I also have the occasional conversation with them about why it may not be the best dietary decision to let my kids eat at Applebees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all on the same day. But, kitchen-reorganizing, and restaurant selections notwithstanding, my in-laws are really awesome!
With that in mind, we haven't always seen eye-to-eye about most things Christmas (or anything Christmas, for that matter). However, in their previously-established awesome way, they have managed to chink away at my crusty exterior with regard to Christmas and some of the traditions surrounding this crazy holiday.
Shortly after our first child was born, my in-laws gave us the coolest Advent Calendar. It is made of wood with a metal center and little magnetic "nativity characters" that fit one-per-holding-cell around the exterior.
I have to admit, the Advent season was not a very big deal for me when I was a kid. In fact, I actually had to have Dave explain some of the tradition surrounding the Advent in the years after we were married. So, this was an entirely new tradition that I had married into. It certainly took some getting used to, and I had to be regularly reminded about it early on.
We also have these really cool friends that, every year, send us a paper Advent Calendar with little cardboard tabs that open to reveal short Advent phrases or factoids. This has been a nice addition, as now the kids can alternate calendars and days to avoid the ever-present competition within our family.
If you are not familiar with the meaning or significance of The Advent, there are a number of great sites you can reference. Just Google it, and you will be amazed! However, if you're kind of lazy, like me, the gist of it is this: The word "advent" comes from the Latin "adventus" meaning "arrival" or "coming," particularly of something having great importance. Basically, it is the time leading up to the "arrival" or "coming" of the Christ-child--Jesus.
Every day for the 24 days leading up to Christmas, the Anderson family is able to take the time to open each of the little wooden doors or cardboard flaps (whichever applies) and have the Christmas story retold in a fun and interactive way. We are able to take just a few minutes daily to reflect upon the significance of Christ being born as a human as well as slowly build the crescendo of expectation and excitement as December 25th grows closer. Of course, sometimes the farm animals and/or shepherds show off some of their, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon moves and end up on the roof of the stable, but we're just kind of fun and creative like that.
So, as the birthday of Christ draws closer, I hope you take just a few minutes to remember exactly what it is that December 25th really signifies. Retell the Christmas story to your kids (or grand kids--cuz you can see how that has worked out in our family). Take the time to reflect on the humble human-beginning of our Savior.
And I hope you have a VERY Merry and Advent-full Christmas!