This past Sunday, November 27th, was the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is the season on the Church Calendar that precedes Christmas, like Lent precedes Easter. The focus of Advent is the eager expectation of God's intervention, of God bringing the promised Messiah to set things right.
The season leading up to Christmas can be really stressful, and many times I find myself sitting there the day after Christmas and thinking I wish I'd actually enjoyed the season. I'd told myself that THIS YEAR would be the year I actually made Christmas about Jesus instead of parties and presents and stress. Maybe you can relate.
In the last few years I've tried to find ways to celebrate Advent with my family, to give greater depth and meaning to Christmas.
I wanted to pass along some resources to you, in case you want to do it too. This is an especially great thing to do with your family - a way to come together as a family and spend some time focusing on God and the hope we have in Jesus. Here's how we celebrate Advent:
HOW WE CELEBRATE ADVENT
An Advent Wreath: We have a small wreath, with spots for four candles on the perimeter and space for one big candle in the middle. Each candle represents a different theme related to Advent. I've found different meanings for each of the candles. I'd say you should have the candle represent whatever the theme of the week is for the Advent Devotional Resource (the next item on this list) you're using. That way it's coherent.
Every Sunday marks the beginning of the new week of Advent. On that Sunday we add the next candle and light it as we go through the devotional materials, pray, have dinner, etc. The rest of the week we have the wreath as the centerpiece of the table, light the candle(s), and when we pray for dinner we keep that week's theme (love, or peace, or expectancy, for example) in mind.
The missing candles help drive home the general theme of Advent, which is expectancy, looking forward to God's intervention...the missing candles and empty spaces remind us that there is more to come.
Advent Devotional: I've found a couple of devotional resources published by other churches. These give you help in figuring out how to sit with your family (or yourself, or your significant other, or your friends, or whoever), and worship/pray together. They guide you through scripture passages, prayers, some have questions, songs, etc.
Here's one from Christ the King church in South Carolina. I can't remember how I found it but this is the one we've used the last couple years. Or tried to use, I should say. We haven't been the most consistent.
Today I came across this Advent Devotional Guide, from the Village Church in Texas. This one has more interactive questions than the other one. I haven't looked all the way through it yet.
You can download one, print it out, and use it. Both of them are set for you to use weekly - on Sundays - with whoever you want to do it with.
Personal Devotional: There's this personal Advent Devotional you can buy for $1.99 from Amazon that is pretty nice, and has some great things to guide you through.
IT’S NOT TOO LATE TO START
Don't let the fact that this past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent stop you. You can start right now with your family, yourself, some friends, neighbors, whatever - to take the time to focus on Jesus during these next sure-to-be-crazy several weeks.
Do you have some Advent resources you've found useful? Let me know about them.