I'll admit the first week of Advent didn't go exactly as I had planned. We did most of our scheduled activities, but my mind was preoccupied - with hard things going on in my family and with planning for a party we hosted this weekend. I'm not giving up. I know there is space in this season for me to sit and enjoy just being with God.
This Advent, my church is focusing on listening to God. I've thus far incorporated this into our Advent plan by encouraging the girls to journal their responses to a reflection question. This week, we'll celebrate Thomas Merton's feast day with a bit of intentional silence and try to give ourselves room to listen to what God is saying.
Think: Tomorrow is the feast day of St. Nicholas. How did a real man inspire Santa Claus? Many Christians are opposed to Santa Claus as an image of Christmas. Can you see why? Do you agree or disagree? Think about where you see God in St. Nicholas and in Santa Claus.
Read: About the real St. Nicholas here.
Do: Choose someone to bless with a stocking. Fill it with homemade cookies, a handmade Christmas card, candy canes, etc. Deliver it anonymously in honor of St. Nicholas.
Think: What do you think of when you hear the word saint? Does it call up a certain mental image? Do you know the difference between a saint and a Saint?
Read: About the difference between a saint and a Saint here. (We will focus on the introduction and Anglican sections.)
Do: Look at several icons, especially ones of saints with scenes from their life surrounding them. (You can find online examples here and here.) Create your own icon style image of you as a saint with scenes from your life surrounding you.
Think: About what it would have been like to be Mary. Can you imagine being 14 years old and having an angel appear to you with such shocking news?
Read: Mary's Magnificat in Luke.
Do: Visit the zoo (weather permitting) or make haystacks cookies (we add a mini marshmallow to represent the baby Jesus). Think about what it would have been like to travel on a donkey while pregnant and give birth surrounded by animals. Imagine how it felt, sounded and smelled.
Think: About what it would be like to be a monk or a nun. Why do you think people choose this path for their life? What appeals to you about it? What doesn't
Read: About Thomas Merton, whose feast day is today.
Do: Spend 15 minutes alone in your room in silence. Light a candle. Pray for a little while and then just be quiet and listen. Ask God to give you a heart to hear him and see whether anything happens. This is not about you getting it right, but about you giving God space to talk to you.