12 Pearls of Christmas Day 2 ~ With Sibella Giorello

Welcome to
the 12 Pearls of

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's
(Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and
more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt
stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

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Advent By Sibella Giorello

Consider the bride's walk down the aisle. We all know where that woman in the white
is going but somehow waiting for her to arrive at the altar is an essential part of the
ceremony. In fact, the waiting is so essential that even cheapskate Vegas chapels include
wedding marches.


Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.

At Christmas time, we tend to forget this essential truth about anticipation. We're lost to
shopping malls and checklists, rushing toward December 25th so quickly that we forget
the quiet joy of the month's other 24 days -- and then we wonder why we feel so empty
on the 26th, amid ribbons and wrapping paper and our best intentions.

Because the wait adds meaning to the moment.

And that is why Advent is so important to Christmas.

I'm as guilty as the next harried person. This Advent was particularly tricky because
just six hours before it started, I was still trying to finish a 110,000-word novel that
was written over the course of the year -- written while homeschooling my kids,
keeping my hubby happy, and generally making sure the house didn't fall down around

It's an understatement to say my free time is limited. But waiting adds meaning, and
Advent is crucial to Christmas, so I've devised several Advent traditions that are simple,
powerful and easy to keep even amid the seasonal rush.

When my kids outgrew the simple Advent calendars around age 7, I stole an idea from
my writer friend Shelly Ngo (as T.S. Eliot said, "Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers
steal." Indulge me.)

Here's how it goes: Find 24 great Christmas books, wrap them individually
and place then under the tree. On the first day of Advent, take turns picking which book
to open. When we did this, we would cuddle under a blanket and read aloud -- oh, the
wonder, the magic! We savored "The Polar Express," howled with "How Murray Saved
Christmas," and fell silent at the end of "The Tale of The Three Trees" (note: some of
the picture books I chose were not explicitly about Christmas but they always echoed
the message that Jesus came to earth to save us from ourselves and to love us beyond
our wildest imagination. In that category, Angela Hunt's retelling of The Three Trees

definitely hits the Yuletide bull's eye).

This Advent tradition lasted for about five years. It gave us rich daily discussions about
the season's real meaning, without being religious or legalistic, and it increased family
couch time. But like the lift-the-flap calendars, my kids outgrew the picture books.

Because the wait adds meaning, and Advent is crucial, I prayed for another way to
celebrate anticipation of Christmas. By the grace of God, last year I found an enormous
Advent calendar on  clearance at Pottery Barn. Made of burlap, it has large pockets
big enough to hold some serious bounty.


But my husband and I didn't want the kids focusing only on the materialist stuff for
Advent -- we already fight that on Christmas day. We decided to fill the daily pockets
with simple necessities and small gift cards. We also printed out the nativity
story from Luke 2:1-21 in a large-sized font and cut each verse out. From Day 1 to
Day 21, there is one verse to read aloud. The kids memorize it, then get to open their
present (again, on alternating days for each person). Then we tape the verse to the wall
in order. By Day 22, all the verses are on the wall, in order, and the kids now try to
recite the entire nativity story from memory. That's not as difficult as it sounds because
they've been memorizing one verse each day. Still, the entire recitation -- verbatim --
usually requires Day 23 and Day 24. Whoever does memorize the entire thing -- without
mistakes --  earns a bonus gift of $25.

Does that sounds extravagant?

It is.

Because we want our kids to understand that God came down and humbled himself and
taught us about love right before He suffered and died on behalf of the undeserving --
which is every one of us.

"That's" extravagant.

And in the waiting, we find even more meaning.

Sibella Giorello writes the Raleigh Harmon mystery series which won the Christy
Award with its first book "The Stones Cry Out." She lives in Washington state with her
husband and children, and often wishes there were 36 hours in a day.

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