A Parent’s Perspective
Christmas is rapidly approaching, one of the most exciting times of the Church year for Catholics. We already have Christmas adverts competing to achieve that much desired place as the one advertisement that most captures the spirit of what Christmas is all about. Many of the central themes involve the excited anticipation, the watching and waiting and the heightened awareness of the great event that is about to occur. One particular advert has really touched the heart of many, featuring a little boy who, with mounting excitement, repeatedly asks the anxious question: “Is he coming, is he coming?”
Children love these sorts of challenges and grandparents or relatives who’ve been confined to home can join in the fun”
We, the viewers, are led to believe that it’s the typical festive scenario of a small child impatient for the arrival of Santa Claus. In an unexpected twist, we are pleasantly surprised to find that the little lad is actually referring to his beloved grandfather who makes his appearance much to the boy’s delight.
I won’t join in the chorus of people who keep reminding us that Christmas is going to be very different this year. Some even suggested moving Christmas to January, an idea that went down like a lead balloon. I found it strange to note the number of people who alluded to the fact that we might even have to consider sacrificing Christmas, all for the benefit of the ‘common good’ of course. Some radio presenters seem intent on telling us that “it’s only one day” which doesn’t gel well with the Catholic celebration of Christmas which only begins on December 25 and is celebrated for twelve days. The time before Christmas, the days of Advent, is a time of preparation and anticipation. Like the boy in that charming Christmas advert, we are waiting for the arrival of a very special guest, the only guest that can give Christmas its true meaning.
With many of the usual events cancelled and families more constrained in what they can do, parents need to be more creative in finding ways to make Advent meaningful. A lot of the focus recently has been on online shopping, who’ll be able to gather for Christmas dinner and how on earth we’ll all cope without our annual Christmas knees-up. Children are being reassured over the airwaves that they need to get their Christmas lists in early and that they won’t miss out whether they were naughty or nice. The baby Jesus is not getting much of a mention so it’s up to Catholic parents, parishes and pastors to do all they can to put the spotlight on the true reason for the season.
We get children involved with all the fun preparations like shopping, baking, sending cards and decorating the house; why not have them equally involved with the spiritual preparations? We’ve all missed going to Mass but many churches are still open during the day. With so many parents working from home, it would be a lovely preparation to visit a church or oratory every day during Advent to light a candle and pray. I saw a great suggestion involving taking a photograph every day which represents some aspect of our spiritual journey to Christmas. These could be posted on parish websites or social media pages or even on a shared family WhatsApp or Facebook chat.
Children love these sorts of challenges and grandparents or relatives who’ve been confined to home can join in the fun. Children get very animated and enthusiastic about the setting up of the Christmas crib. In our house, the baby Jesus isn’t put into his manger until Christmas morning. It’s become a yearly ritual that each person in the family gets the opportunity to place the baby in the crib.
My 21-year-old daughter suggested that this year we go all out and make a crib scene to remember with everyone helping to make it extra special. I saw a great idea for younger children on a blog page called Rainy Day Mum, flat stones are painted with simple pictures from the first Christmas. These story stones are great for all ages but the younger children and toddlers will really love them, and no great artistic skills are required. This is a project that older and younger children can work on together. Another fantastic idea is to use Advent to learn and sing a few of the classic Christmas hymns and carols that tell the true story of Christmas. We often know the first verse or two but struggle when the singing extends to further verses. YouTube is your friend here and this is another area where intergenerational efforts can be pooled to have a lovely Zoom carol service at Christmas. A recorded Christmas carol would be a lovely gift for a grandparent on Christmas Day. My own grandchildren’s other grandparents and great-grandmother live in Canada and really miss that human contact with the children. A carol sent across the miles would be such a joy for them at Christmas.
Finally, don’t forget to get to Confession. Many Catholics haven’t been for months and months and what better way to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child. With the grace of God, we’ll all be able to celebrate a return to Mass before Christmas and enjoy the best Christmas gift of all after a very tough year and a well-spent Advent. No matter what the challenges, as long as we keep our hearts focused on Christ in the Eucharist, no Grinch can ever steal Christmas.