Let the Christmas season begin!
What??? you may ask. Like it's totally ended! Well, as a Catholic, we follow the Church's liturgical calendar which means that the season of Advent has finished and that the season of Christmas only just began yesterday and will conclude with the Epiphany on January 13th.
I am no theologian and will not attempt to explain the Church's teaching on this, but I will say that I appreciate the elongated Christmas season. After all of the work and preparations during Advent, I'm so glad there's reason to savor the season a little longer. After all of the fun of the past few weeks, I'm not quite ready to go back to regular life. Furthermore, I'm pooped! Thank goodness I am fully justified in keeping all of the decorations up for a while longer.
I love all of the traditions in our faith that are being passed down to our children. Yesterday Veronica had her first turn of putting the baby Jesus into the manger of our nativity scene as we sang Happy Birthday. I remember having that honor when I was a child. With traditions such as this, I have always looked forward to leading our children in their journey of faith.
What I didn't know is that at the same time, our children would also be leading me through my journey.
A couple of months ago, Joshua and Noah said they would both like to start attending daily Mass. This came as a great surprise to me. And internally, I initially thought something like, "Are you kidding me? You want me to get us all out of the house earlier?! Daily Mass is at 8:00 am!"
Furthermore, I have to admit that there was a time when I thought things like daily Mass were only for religious fanatics or something. It has only been in the last few years that I have developed a real, sincere love for Mass. But did that mean I was ready to get three kids up and ready to attend Mass by myself on weekdays in time for 8 am Mass? I thought one of the perks of homeschooling is that you don't have to get out the door so early!
But how do you tell your kids that? How can you simultaneously teach you children that we love God, that He is our best friend, that Church is our special place to be with God but also that we don't want to go there everyday? I couldn't. And now that we have been going and it is part of our routine, my love for Mass has grown and I am so glad when we go. We don't actually get there every morning. We work with our class schedule, other commitments, our health and state of tiredness, and probably get there three time a week or so.
The children aren't always excited about going. And they surely don't always behave. There was one morning where Jason was working from home and Joshua was especially tired. He knew that there was the option of staying home that day and said that he didn't want to go. I said that he needed to come with us and that if he was really tired and grumpy, he could pray about that in Church. He actually got into the car without any further argument, but was obviously not happy about it.
On our drive to Church, I asked him how he would feel if he was expecting a friend to come over and was really excited about it, but then canceled because they were too tired. He answered that he would be sad. I explained that's how God would feel if we blew off going to Church. His response was, "But sometimes it's haaaaard!"
Yes it is. I certainly have mornings that I don't feel up to it. But I think it's important to teach our kids that we don't give up practicing our faith when it gets hard, as it surely will. If we stop practicing our faith when it's hard, when it's not convenient, when we are too tired, when we are frustrated, irritated, impatient, angry or bored with God, then it may be more difficult to lean on that faith and to feel its strength and support when we need it most. Of course, that's much too difficult to explain to a seven-year-old.
Instead, I continued with the comparison of a friend coming to visit. I explained, "What if that friend was so excited about visiting you that they came even when it was really hard? When they were tired and their car ran out of gas and they had to drive through floods and a dragon tried to blow fire on their car and aliens attacked them? What if they still came after all of that, because they wanted to see you so much? How would you feel?"
"Really good," he replied. And in explaining this to my son, not only did he understand a little more, but so did I. Through my children's questions, they are often leading me.
Sometimes faith is hard. But with children, it's often pretty easy. Most mornings when I dress Veronica, she asks, "Church? Church?" She can't wait till the next time we get to go.
I asked the children on Christmas Eve if their hearts were ready for Jesus to come. Had they made room in their hearts for Jesus this Advent? Noah answered, "Jesus is already in our hearts." Well, yes. Yes he is.
Not only do my children provide inspiration when it comes to our faith, but even more often they provide humor. Each time I receive Communion with Veronica in my arms, she curiously asks, "Cracker?"
Veronica knows we are supposed to be quiet in Church, although this undoubtedly doesn't mean that she always is. At Christmas Eve Mass, when everyone stood and began to pray the Apostles' Creed, she glared at everyone, mortified that we were all talking, and whispered indignantly, "Shh! Stop it! Shh! Stop it!"
And when we finished praying the Our Father, she applauded and cheered.We all laughed, but really, it makes a whole lot of sense to cheer after that prayer.
If only we all had such childlike faith.