Jami Glenn is a brand new author to Gathering Around and we are so blessed to have her sharing with us! She is living a life brimming with blessings in the Midwest. She, her husband, and their two daughters are intentional about loving people, creating space for adventure and living with grateful hearts. She enjoys meaningful conversations over a great cup of coffee, the smell of old books and driving with the windows down. You can find her on Instagram @midwestbirdnest.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
We are a family of four- husband, wife and two young daughters. Like many families, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Also, like many families, Christmas is the most hectic time of the year.
The first couple of Christmases with our two young daughters were blissful. Laughter, food and togetherness were the focal points; the presents almost an afterthought. We were in “baby land” and all anyone wanted to do was gather around the Christmas tree to tell family stories and pass the babies from grandmas, to aunts, to cousins, back to grandmas again.
Fast forward just three short years and the picture was very different. There was still plenty of laughter, food and togetherness, but they were no longer the central thread holding the season together. We were spending less time sharing our time around the Christmas tree and more time running last minute errands, attending parties, school functions and holiday shopping.
Over coffee with a friend, I was lamenting our situation, knowing full well that it’s a struggle for many families in this generation. She asked if I had ever heard of an advent calendar. I told her I didn’t know much about them, and she explained what they were and how her family created their own advent calendar with a twist.
Instead of using a calendar with little doors to discover treats, she wrapped each individual piece of the nativity story, like it was a present, for her daughters to unwrap each day of December. I was feeling pretty desperate so I decided to give it a try. I found a cheap nativity scene for kids, wrapped each individual item and prayed that it would help our family.
On December 1st, I led the girls to the Christmas tree and showed them their first small gift. They unwrapped the angel Gabriel while I turned the Bible to Luke 1:26. I read the scripture about Gabriel aloud, “In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee...”. Those were the only words I read for Day 1 because the next part of the sentence Mary enters and she would be unwrapped on Day 2.
Without any prompting from me, the girls took turns playing with Gabriel throughout the day. The next day, I had the girls retell what they remembered about Gabriel. Then, they unwrapped Mary. I read Luke 1:27-35 about Gabriel telling Mary the Good News.
Again, without any prompting from me, they played with Mary and Gabriel throughout the day. This pattern continued, and the wonderfully surprising thing that happened is that as more characters were introduced, the girls would reenact what they knew of the story over and over again. They would get the little Mary and Joseph and create a complete dialogue between the two of them.
It continued like this every day until we reached Christmas. (I know you might be thinking, “but there’s not 24 parts to a nativity?!?! I had to get REALLY creative, folks. I wrapped a tiny hay bale, barn chickens, each shepherd. I even made a star from foil and wrapped it up!)
On Christmas morning, before we opened any other presents, the girls opened up the last present of their nativity- baby Jesus. We read Luke 2: 6-7 out loud and talked about how this awesome story had been leading to this character, this baby, this Jesus the entire time. We reminded them that all of the Christmas presents we were getting ready to unwrap were there because we were having a birthday party for Jesus.
This tradition completely changed our Christmas. Yes, there was still wrapping paper everywhere, and a few too many toys, but there was the simple understanding that this- these gifts- were not what it was all about.
The girls had spent the last 24 days playing out the story of Jesus with their hands, which translated to cultivating it in their heads and hearts. I had spent the last 24 days reading the story out loud and watching them create dialogue and plot twists that I had never thought of and it simply changed our hearts.
At our house, Christmas is still full of laughter, food, togetherness and presents, but now it’s also full of the truth of the season being cultivated in each of our hearts, and that really does make it the most wonderful time of the year.