Sunday, December 17, 2017

How We Connect Wise Men, Acts of Kindness, and Reflection

Rejoice!  It is Guadete and Bambinelli Sunday.  In just one week, the joyful anticipation of this Advent season will make way for the celebration of Christ's coming!

The Lord, indeed, is near, and, thus, our call to use our hearts, heads, and hands to prepare to encounter Christ continues.  Of course, partaking in the sacraments is one of the best ways to do so.  Thus, my family as enjoyed extra time at Mass, Reconciliation, and Adoration over the past week, thanks, in part, to a wonderful Advent Mission our parish collaborative offered.

Another way my family seeks to keep God central in our lives is to consciously share acts of love and service with the help of our ever-simplified Works of Mercy Wise Men tradition. In case you, too, would like to connect acts of kindness, with seasonal stories, then, I thought I'd share more of what our Works of Mercy Wise Men have inspired us to partake in this past week.

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Between last Sunday and Monday, we managed to lose one of the Wise Men from our Tales of Glory Nativity Playset as they continued to 
get into stories, sometimes with other items nearby. That has not stopped us from chatting about stories and deciding what Work of Mercy or virtue we might work on for a given day.

On the ninth day of Advent, the children found our Wise Men atop Mt. Laundry with Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect.  After chatting, we decided the message for our day was to accept imperfections and to seek to help others in whatever ways we could so that we might see "the love of Christ expressed on earth" in one another, remembering that "living for the sake of others makes us most beautiful on the eyes of God" (quotes from the story.) Part of our effort to live this mission for the day was to lend a hand and patience to one another getting through chores (like the laundry!) and lessons.

We also gave each other - including Mom and Dad - "assignments", such as "not going on and on", "focusing when it is time to focus,", "being kind and self-controlled even when tired,", "not arguing,", "sharing smiles not scowls."

Finally, we looked for opportunities to serve in simple ways - happily sharing time with a student and friend when her parent was late picking her up after a class, stopping by someone's house to make sure he had been able to get out for groceries despite recent snow and rain, that sort of thing.

As we reflected on the day, we continued to ponder the question:  How might we live for the sake of others this Advent and always?

The tenth day of Advent was also a significant feast day - that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so our Wise Men greeted us near a small bag of items to donate at My Brother's Keeper, a bunch of feast day reading, watching, and listening, and a lovely book called The Three Gifts of Christmas which reminds us of the truth: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  With this in mind, we headed off to volunteer for the day.

As a family, we read the wish lists of different needy families...

... "shopped" for gifts that we thought would bless the families...

... and thoroughly enjoyed spending many happy hours s
erving at Santa's Workshop at My Brother's Keepera FABULOUS organization that we highly recommend supporting and/or volunteering for! 

Later on, the children and I also made time to visit an elderly gentleman who lives nearby to us before going to participate in a lovely Advent mission Mass and collation.

As the day closed, our hearts remained full and happy and we reflected: 
How might we continue to offer time, talent, treasure and prayers this Advent?

The eleventh day of Advent was also St. Lucia's feast day. Since Around the Year Once Upon a Time Saints book with a St. Lucy story was till in the minivan where I had placed it the day before so we could read the preceding Our Lady of Guadalupe story during a down moment between events, our Wise Men instead found themselves with our straw "manger", "straw", a book called Marta and the Manger Straw, along with slips of paper that had each of our family member's names on them.

The connection?  St. Lucia is patron to the blind and legend has it that she delivered wheat and bread to the poor and homebound as well as to Christians staying in the catacombs. She did the latter under cover of darkness of night to avoid detection and so would carry a lamp or wear a crown of candles to light her way while freeing her hands to carry supplies. Since her name means "light", in honor of her feast day, our Wise Men and the book "
Marta and the Manger Straw reminded us to make sacrifices to be the light of Christ to others. They also reminded us it was time to pick our family Christkindl, by secretly drawing slips of paper with one another's names on them to discover who we'll take under special care for the rest of the season, doing extra kindnesses for. 

Of course, after that, much of the day involved finding opportunities to extend such kindnesses, and as the day ended, we reflected: 
How might we continue to light the way for others, sharing Christ's love?

The twelfth day of Advent was Saint John of the Cross' feast day, so one Wise Man was found reading the "Saint John of the Cross" page of 
Saints Lives & Illuminations while another read The Small One.  Upon reading these stories, our thoughts went to how St. John of the Cross endured such hardships, yet maintained his faith and became a Doctor of the Church. We also chatted about how the boy in The Small One protected his donkey by ensuring he was placed with kind owners even when the boy was forced to sell him.  We decided our mission for the day would be to endure our own hardships with strength, and to, perhaps, get together some things we no longer needed to gift forward to good homes. 

We never got to the latter part of our goal as the morning found us enduring a long drive through snow to get to a commitment and, by the time we were headed home from our day, my youngest - who had been enduring signs of what we all thought was just tiredness - began indicated he was suddenly feeling quite unwell.  Poor little guy!  Luckily, his siblings stepped right up to bat with helping to care for the sick, and, so the night proved one of extended kindness and love even if no excess was sorted through to gift forward.

As we went to bed that night, we reflected:  How can we adapt our plans to whatever comes up, finding ways to extend love and live with faith in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in?

On the thirteenth day of Advent, snow still covered our yard, so the Wise Men got into our birdseed bin with a new to use book called The Message of the Birds.  Obviously, they were telling us to go out to feed our feathered friends, which we did.  The book also reminded us of the Christ child and of the need for peace in the world.

That concept of peace took a twist in our home as another child came down with a bug and stayed cheerful even if not feeling well at all while the rest of us took turns nursing and letting her rest.  Yes, sometimes, the Works of Mercy we are called to are simple ones in our own home - taking care of those close to us.

As we closed the day, our reflection became:  How might we act and react to the people and situations around us each day to share the love of Christ and promote peace?

On this, the fourteenth day of Advent, everyone in our home was again feeling healthy again - praise God - and we knew it was Guadete ("Rejoice!) Sunday - the Sunday that marks how we are to celebrating our Lord's coming, Bambinelli Sunday - the Sunday when Baby Jesus figurines are blessed, and also our family's personal "Tree Sunday" - the Sunday our family traditionally picks out a Christmas tree.  So, one Wise Man was found with Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing and another was found with The Pine Tree Parable. Nearby were wrapped Baby Jesus figurines from our nativity sets.  Thus, we brought our Baby Jesus' to church and, after Mass, asked the visiting priest who presided to bless them. (And what a beautiful blessing spontaneous blessing he offered!)  Then, later, we went to pick out our tree, which we will decorate on the 24th - holding off on "Christmas" as long as we can so as to honor the season of Advent.

We also noted how in both Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing and the The Pine Tree Parable, characters give away items that are important to them, recognizing the beauty of bringing joy to others.  Thus, we aimed to share joy with one another on this Holy Day and took time to name parts of the day we had been blessed by as well as examples of when we saw others shining with the light of Christ's love.

As we go to bed tonight, we will reflect: Our Lord is near and His love is everywhere.  When we choose, we can extend Christ's love to one another?  How might we do that in big ways and in small as Advent continues and even after that?

Undoubtedly, as Advent winds down this week, my children and I will continue to read books that inspire acts of kindness and reflective moments.  We also would love to find new seasonal stories to carry us through Christmastide.  We'd love to hear what your favorites are!

If you'd like to read about our other Works of Mercy Wise Men ideas, please click through the images below to find some of our some past ideas.

May your final week of Advent be filled with service and special moments as you prepare yourself to encounter Jesus - past, present, and future - and rejoice that the Lord is near!


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