The word advent basically means the arrival of something or someone long awaited. As a Christian, this takes on a sacred meaning when applied to the four weeks leading up to the celebration of the birth of Christ at Christmas. During Advent, we (Christians) ask the Lord to prepare our hearts as we await the arrival of the annual celebration of His first coming and also prepare for His next and final arrival in the Second Coming foretold to us in the Scriptures.
A simple wreath of evergreens and four candles, three that are purple, one pink (for JOY – this one is lit the third week to celebrate the fact that there is only one week of waiting left to go!) forms a centerpiece for our table during Advent. The candles represent hope, peace, faith and love. Such ideas become meditations for us to carry in our hearts as we spend the weeks preceding Christmas praying, giving and seeking forgiveness, and joyfully serving our loved ones and those we meet each day.
Advent is a time to prepare for a special guest
Think of a time in your life when a family member or cherished friend has traveled a great distance to visit you. You may have enjoyed getting ready for your guest by preparing a special room or place to sleep, shopping for and cooking special meals and treats ahead of time and perhaps, decorating your home with candles or other special items to welcome your guest and mark the occasion of the visit.
Advent is also a way of waiting, anticipation and longing for the arrival of our Special Guest (Jesus). We have no way of knowing when Jesus was actually born but, as believers, we profess that He was indeed born and lived on earth as God incarnate in the flesh of a man. The celebration of that fact is shared by millions of people throughout the world on the 25th day of December, each year.
Light a candle every day
Advent is a beautiful, peaceful, joyful way to prepare for that celebration. By taking a bit of time each day to light a candle, read the holy Scriptures and spend time together as a family and also alone, in the presence of God, we ask Him to clear out our clutter so-to-speak – to help us make straight our paths and prepare the way for His Son. We try our best to detach from worldly and secular busy-ness and tap into silence, stillness and eager awaiting of the coming of Christ.
Many people say they dread the holiday season and specifically, Christmas because they spend all their time rushing around and trying to achieve perfection or outdo a previous year’s celebration.
Keep a slower pace during Advent
Advent helps me slow down, simplify, de-stress and rest in the hope, peace, faith and love that I know the miracle of Christmas brings. It’s an easy way to keep Christ in Christmas and also to build special, happy memories that my family will treasure the rest of our lives.
The following list includes some of my own family’s Advent traditions:
- Every year, we use old Christmas cards, construction paper, blue, markers, etc., to create a family Advent calendar. Each page contains the date and a suggestion for a family activity to help prepare our hearts for Christmas. Such suggestions may be as simple as “Spend quiet time together by the three” or something a bit more complex, such as:
“Pray for those who are lonely and send a greeting to someone who lives alone.” One page might recommend watching a Christmas movie together, another, taking up a collection of warm coats for those in need. The making of this calendar is one of our favorite family customs that we use to kick off our Advent season!
- We light a candle on our Advent wreath every night and hang an ornament on a Jesse Tree after reading a corresponding Scripture passage. You can Google “How to make a Jesse Tree” for more ideas.
- We put names in a bowl and draw one per each of us at the beginning of Advent. The person whose name we draw becomes our Kris Kringle. (The German name for Christ Child.) During Advent, we secretly serve our Kris Kringle by doing acts of kindness or leaving little notes or surprises for our loved one. We have two tiny dolls, a boy and a girl that we use to accompany our notes. We think of them as our Kris Kringle helper and enjoy watching them appear around the house!
Is your family too busy? Are you feeling rushed? Do you wish you had more time to pray and rest? It’s not too late to participate in the beautiful preparation season of Advent. There are still two weeks left! There’s no one way to celebrate Advent. The point is to set aside the weeks before Christmas as a special time of waiting, preparation, prayer and service to others. A plethora of resources exists online if you need a little jump-start for creative ideas and ways to share this custom with your family.