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Veni, Veni Emmanuel

At Christmastime, I’ve always been a lousy dad.  Late getting out the creche.  Grumpy about wrapping gifts.  Appalling in the matter of trees.  (About ten years ago, I finally remembered, on the way home from the office with just a week left before Christmas itself, that we still needed a tree.  I pulled over at a Christmas tree stand being run by the local Kiwanis, chose a tree in the dark, overpaid for it, then drove off.  In the light of the following morning, it was clear that the tree had looked green only because the dry, brown needles had been spray-painted.  Within three days, nearly all the needles had fallen off, leaving us with a tree so distasteful to the eye that my wife went off and bought a new one.  She has insisted on buying our tree every year since.)

This year, I’ve resolved, will be better.  I’ve already bought an advent wreath for our table.  (Well, my wife bought it.  But I was the one who suggested it.)  Now, for the Ricochetoise, two questions:

Where can I buy an advent calendar?  One of those old-fashionedy ones, with a new window to open each day?  Religious themes, please, instead of the “Jolly Old St. Nick” variety.

Where can I find a book of–oh, I don’t know, advent devotions?  Or practices?  Maybe a little book with a reading for each day of Advent?  Something simple enough for our littlest one–we still have an eight-year old–to understand and enjoy?

Yes, I know.  Advent started this past Sunday, so I’m already late.

But I’m trying. Really I am.

  1. Diane Ellis
    C

    As for Advent readings, I’m about to hit the purchase button on this one:

    Watch For the Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas

    It’s an anthology with writings by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Donne, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Archbishop Romero, and others. 

  2. JACK

    Peter:

    As far as an Advent devotional, I think the one published by Magnificat each year is pretty nice.  You can pick one up in most any Catholic bookstore (if they aren’t out, OLOP should have one) for about 5 bucks. 

    If you are interested in music, I’d definitely check out a CD published years ago by the Brotherhood of Hope.  It’s a simple amateur recording, but about the only one I know of focused on Advent songs and not Christmas ones.  Not sure if it is available for download anywhere, but I know you can order it online from the religious order’s website.

    As far as an advent calendar, let me know if you find one.  I was surprised I couldn’t find one at OLOP.

  3. Diane Ellis
    C

    Peter —

    You should take the family down to the Santa Cruz mountains to cut a tree yourselves.  There are at least half a dozen Christmas tree farms off of Highway 17.  For half the price of a tree from a lot, you can cut one fresh.  And it’s SO much fun to go up into the fresh mountain air with the family to hunt for the perfect tree. I can’t recommend it highly enough.  (But if you do go, make sure everyone wears galoshes or rainboots and a warm jacket because it can get muddy and cold up there)

  4. Matthew Gilley

     Peter, for your 8 year old, I highly recommend this Advent Storybook.  We bought this last year for our children (now 7 and 4) and each story holds their attention each night leading up to Christmas (all you need is about three minutes before bedtime).  You’ll start a few days behind but it will be nothing to catch up.

  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Peter Robinson

    Where can I find a book of–oh, I don’t know, advent devotions?  Or practices?  Maybe a little book with a reading for each day of Advent?  Something simple enough for our littlest one–we still have an eight-year old–to understand and enjoy?

    Whichever daily devotional guide your church stocks (Upper Room, etc — I’ve forgotten the name of the Catholic one I’ve sometimes used) will have special advent material.

    The title of your post suggests my favorite devotional guide for the season: advent hymns. Most hymnals have their advent songs right in front of the Christmas ones.

    As a child, I felt I connected better with the messages of the hymns I got to sing than I did with the typical Sunday School lesson or scriptural exposition.

    Children also tend to connect with hands-on activities… making their own advent wreath, setting up the creche themselves — moving the sheep out to pasture and back, setting up the Magi far away and moving them gradually closer…

    Lighting the advent wreath with the other lights off is pleasantly spooky and mysterious. My experience is that devotions held mostly in darkness pique children’s interest.

  6. Trace

    http://www.adoremusbooks.com

    It’s like Staples for Catholic kids and homeschoolers. They seem to have a wide-selection of advent calendars.

    Of course in our house the preferred advent calendar is the one in which a different to-be-assembled Lego figurine in interred behind each day…

    We do get our creche up in time though ;-)

  7. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    JACK: Peter:

    As far as an Advent devotional, I think the one published by Magnificat each year is pretty nice. 

    Magnificat! That’s the name I couldn’t remember. Thank you, Jack!

  8. Nathaniel Wright

    We have combined the Playmobil Santa advent calendar with the Playmobil nativity set to create the Playmobil Nativity advent calendar.

    As for traditional advent calendars with Nativity/religious imagery on them, I see them each year in Alpine Village in Torrence.   That likely won’t help you, but this one (for $6) at Amazon.com might.

    My family is still debating the “Santa” issue with regard to our twin daughters.  Looks like the “okay we’ll do Santa, but…” side is winning.  We never even considered, even with our shared German heritage, the Christkind tradition.

    The “Santa” lie is bad enough.

  9. Peter Robinson
    C

    Wow.  Only half a dozen comments so far, but I’m already rolling in good suggestions.  Thank you, thank you.  I’ll look into every one of these, even Diane’s suggestion for sullying my hands, and the roof of my car, by cutting down my own tree.  Ah, but wait!  My oldest son has his driver’s license!  I’ll send the boys.  Yes.  That’s it!  I won’t even have to go!  (Thank you, Diane, for helping me get into the spirit.)

    Note to Jack:  As it happens, I stopped in the bookstore at Our Lady of Peace earlier this very week.  The manager told me that she simply doesn’t stock advent calendars.  I listened to this slack-jawed with disbelief, but, since she’s so obviously a sweet, efficient lady who knows her business, I just let it go, choosing not to probe for her rationale.

  10. JACK
    Peter Robinson: Wow.  Only half a dozen comments so far, but I’m already rolling in good suggestions.  Thank you, thank you.  I’ll look into every one of these, even Diane’s suggestion for sullying my hands, and the roof of my car, by cutting down my own tree.  Ah, but wait!  My oldest son has his driver’s license!  I’ll send the boys.  Yes.  That’s it!  I won’t even have to go!  (Thank you, Diane, for helping me get into the spirit.)

    Note to Jack:  As it happens, I stopped in the bookstore at Our Lady of Peace earlier this very week.  The manager told me that she simply doesn’t stock advent calendars.  I listened to this slack-jawed with disbelief, but, since she’s so obviously a sweet, efficient lady who knows her business, I just let it go, choosing not to probe for her rationale. · Dec 3 at 10:32am

    I’m glad I’m not the only one with that reaction to learning OLOP doesn’t stock them!

  11. Good Berean

    Ditto the fresh tree cutting adventure. And, Peter, do go yourself! This is NOT a project to be delegated.

    As for the book, I highly recommend Family Celebrations by Ann Hibbard. It has a chapter on Christmas which features the celebration of advent. It has family reading and activites which engage the whole family in the celebration of holidays and illustrates the christian history and significance of the holidays we celebrate here in the US.

  12. Fredösphere

    Don’t feel bad, Peter. I went shopping for Advent candles yesterday and came up empty. I even stopped by the little Catholic bookstore at Domino’s Farms just down the road from where I work (in Ann Arbor) which, thanks to Tom Monaghan, happens to be the Most Catholic Place On Earth, and they were all out.

    This mad, belated scramble for candles has turned into a beloved Holiday ritual at our house.

  13. Not JMR
    Peter Robinson

    Where can I buy an advent calendar?  One of those old-fashionedy ones, with a new window to open each day?  Religious themes, please, instead of the “Jolly Old St. Nick” variety.

    In California? You’d be lucky to find one in the discounted books shelf at Barnes & Noble.

  14. Pseudodionysius

    Ack. Late to the party. Peter, I have been a Magnificat subscriber for several years. Not only do they have a special Advent section now, but they also have an online web version of their site, and several cool mobile apps for iPhone and other devices.

  15. Pseudodionysius
    Nathaniel Wright: We have combined the Playmobil Santa advent calendar with the Playmobil nativity set to create the Playmobil Nativity advent calendar.

    My family is still debating the “Santa” issue with regard to our twin daughters.  Looks like the “okay we’ll do Santa, but…” side is winning.  We never even considered, even with our shared German heritage, the Christkind tradition.

    The “Santa” lie is bad enough. · Dec 3 at 10:31am

    Its nice to see that my thread topic lives on during Advent.

  16. Talleyrand

     Peter – When it is all too much, then I suggest you listen to this extraordinarily beautiful piece of music. It may help remind your (& me) that Christmas is not just about the gifts, calendars, and overindulgence, but about the birth of the Saviour. (Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, Nascetur pro te Israel)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRi1GDoaQu4

    (Zoltán Kodály, L’Accorche-Choeur, Ensemble vocal Fribourg)

    P.S Buy a small conifer in a pot, and bring it inside for the Christmas period, you live in California so you can grow just about anything up there.

  17. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Talleyrand:  Peter – When it is all too much, then I suggest you listen to this extraordinarily beautiful piece of music. It may help remind your (& me) that Christmas is not just about the gifts, calendars, and overindulgence, but about the birth of the Saviour. (Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel, Nascetur pro te Israel)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRi1GDoaQu4

    (Zoltán Kodály, L’Accorche-Choeur, Ensemble vocal Fribourg)

    It is not only well-composed, but extremely well-sung. I must add it to my favorites!

    Thanks, Talleyrand.

  18. Denise Moss
    C

    Wish I could help you, Peter.  But I do know where to get the best latkes.

  19. Layla

    Peter, have you ever heard of a Jesse Tree? (Note: I’m not a Catholic, so I can’t vouch for that particular site.) It has become my children’s favorite Advent devotion. They made the Jesse Tree ornaments themselves, so it’s extra special for them to hang a new ornament on the tree every night. What I like most about the Jesse Tree is that it focuses us all on God’s unfolding plan of redemption from the beginning.

    You can either make (or have your kids make) the ornaments or buy them (and the devotions) ready-made for you.

  20. RES

    A number of years ago my father-in-law gave his grand-daughter a lovely wooden advent calendar, comprised of 28 compartments, each approx. 2″ high by 3″ wide.  This heavy-duty calendar lasted for her childhood and will be available for her children and grand-children should the line get that far.  I’ve no idea whence he got it, but did find interesting results at Amazon by searching for “advent calendar wood”.

    There is probably no need to delve into what a pain it was to reload the dang thing every year.