Inspiring advent gifts
Make the countdown to Christmas even more specialThe weeks leading up to Christmas are filled with excitement. There are decorations to hang, and presents to wrap, cookies to bake and cards to send. But what about the true spirit of the season? Amid your busy schedule, are you keeping "the reason for the season" in your heart and mind?
If you're looking for a way to make this advent season more meaningful for the people you care about, an advent calendar could help. Here are some ideas for advent calendar presents and other inspiring advent gifts to help you and those you love find spiritual focus this December.
Choosing an advent calendar
This time of year, you can find advent calendars in all kinds of stores, from card shops to book sellers. I even saw a couple in a local shop that caters to the science fiction and comic book crowd (and yes, I am one of those people!)
But as novel and interesting as a Star Wars or Doctor Who advent calendar might be, if you're looking for spiritual inspiration they might not do the trick.
Once you eliminate the novelty calendars (Twilight advent calendars? Really?), you're left with several different choices.
Simple pre-printed advent calendars
The simplest ones feature paper doors scattered amid a printed paper. If you're selecting one of these as a gift, make sure the messages behind each door work well with the recipient's spiritual practice.
Someone with a more traditional bend might enjoy a design with Bible verses behind the doors, while someone with a more philosophical point of view might like one with self-improvement or inspiring messages.
Gift-filled advent calendars
Children love advent calendars filled with tiny gifts behind each door. And depending on the gift, so do adults! If spiritual focus is your goal, select one that offers small tokens of the season (one I saw contained a miniature wooden nativity scene, a piece at a time.) Or if you opt for one filled with sweets or small toys, make sure there's also a seasonal message included behind each door.
Fill-them-yourself advent calendars
One of the easiest ways to know exactly what message your advent gift will send is to fill the calendar yourself. Many online and local shops carry ready to fill calendars that range from a wood frame with tiny doors to a soft wall hanging with pockets for each day.
If you use of these for your gift, pick items that will please the recipient, as well as convey a Christmas message. Small candies or other sweets are traditional, but you can make it more inspiring by pairing those treats with saints' medals, holy cards or small scripture scrolls.
Small, special Christmas ornaments, cards for family activities or little gifts selected for the person are also wonderful choices.
Although advent calendars are popular because of their daily reward, a wreath of advent candles is another wonderful advent gift.
The four candles in the wreath represent the four weeks of advent, and the surrounding greenery representing rebirth and hope. Traditionally, these candles are lit on the Sundays in December, with special prayers and blessings each week.
Any Christian can use an advent wreath to mark the weeks in December. But because this symbol is still not widely used outside of the Catholic Church, if you decide to give this as an advent gift to a non-Catholic, you might want to include a print out of the meaning and traditions.
Another way to mark the advent season with gifts is to give someone a piece of a nativity scene each day in December, with the presentation of the baby Jesus figure on Christmas eve.
You can tailor this gift to the recipient's style -- a modern take on the scene for more abstract thinkers and a classic nativity for those who favor tradition. Either way, it's a delightful way to make the season more meaningful for both of you.