O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

By Barbara Laufersweiler

The season of Advent is about waiting, about preparation, about quiet and mystery. Christmas is a celebration of God incarnate, now accessible, among us. Epiphany is the visit of the magi, Jesus' baptism, and the start of the world learning about him. These seasons of the church year offer a welcome rhythm for family life at a time of year that can so easily be hectic and full of frustrations.

Advent can help us quiet ourselves and our children for a few moments to think about and enjoy these days. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day; every year it is at least three weeks of preparing our hearts and our lives for the Christ child. We are getting ready to celebrate!

We're making and buying gifts, baking good things, anticipating seeing friends and family, enjoying parties. Let's also slow down and enjoy these days of Advent. Talk with your children about getting ready for the Christ child in our homes and in our hearts.

The season of Christmas begins at midnight on Christmas morning, and lasts until January 5, the 12th day of Christmas. January 6 is Epiphany, observed in church on the following Sunday.

One way to counter the letdown of the day after Christmas is to continue the celebration in small ways throughout the 12 days. Leave the Christmas decorations up and the nativity scene in place. Read Christmas stories and continue to enjoy Christmas cookies and music. Use this time to bring gifts to your neighbors and friends, rather than rushing to get everything done before December 25. Help your wise men make their journey around the house to arrive at the manger on Epiphany.

Being aware of and talking about Advent and Epiphany, as well as the full season of Christmas, helps us and our children feel the rhythm of this time of year, and makes this an even more wonderful time of year.


Light the candles of an Advent wreath each evening before dinner, and quietly enjoy their light for a moment. Each week has a focus; on Sundays, find and learn together a brief Advent prayer for the coming week.

For the 12 days of Christmas, light all of the Advent candles and a Christ candle (a white candle in its own holder) too!


Make a nativity set - Mary, Joseph, the infant Jesus, angels, shepherds, animals - that your children can enjoy touching. Together, make figures out of construction paper... or wrap cloth onto wire figures... or paint rocks...


Find "Christmas" carols about waiting and getting ready. Help your child learn part or all of an Advent song. Enjoy a recording of well-known religious music for the season - maybe a bit of Handel's Messiah?


Adapt from Mexican tradition the Posada; your children and their friends can play the Holy Family and, outside your house, knock on each door asking for a room for the night - being turned away each time by a different innkeeper... played by you! Finish with inviting them in for a treat.

About the author

Barbara Laufersweiler is an at-home mom, an Episcopalian, and the creator of Faith at Home, http://www.faith-at-home.com, a Web site offering help to parents as they explore and enjoy faith with their children. Copyright © 2001 Barbara K. Laufersweiler. All rights reserved.


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