Advent is one of the few Christian festivals that can be observed in the home as well as at church. In its association with Christmas, Advent is a natural time to involve children in activities at home that directly connect with worship at church. In the home an Advent wreath is often placed on the dining table and the candles lighted at meals, with Scripture readings preceding the lighting of the candles, especially on Sunday. A new candle is lighted each Sunday during the four weeks, and then the same candles are lighted each meal during the week. In this context, it provides the opportunity for family devotion and prayer together, and helps teach the Faith to children, especially if they are involved in reading the daily Scriptures.
It is common in many homes to try to mark the beginning of Advent in other ways as well, for the same purpose of instruction in the faith. Some families decorate the house for the beginning of Advent, or bake special cookies or treats, or simply begin to use table coverings for meals. An Advent Calendar is a way to keep children involved in the entire season. There are a wide variety of Advent calendars, but usually they are simply a card or poster with windows that can be opened, one each day of Advent, to reveal some symbol or picture associated with the Old Testament story leading up to the birth of Jesus. One unique and specialized Advent calendar that can be used is a Jesse Tree. (for a copy of one ask Tom and he’ll locate it online)
At our house, some of the ways we have celebrated Advent (both past and future) include:
- Lighting an Advent wreath during dinner and having family devotions;
- Keeping an Advent calendar;
- Reading devotionals on the history of Christmas traditions and symbols;
- Reading through Advent devotionals as a couple or family;
- Setting up a Nativity set but not putting Jesus in it until Christmas morning
All of these are things we have done to help reinforce the concept of waiting for Christmas and building in ourselves that longing for the coming of Christ. It also serves to reinforce hope, perhaps what I consider one of the key words of the season. Mr. Bratcher makes the comment that it is “What the world needs now is, not love, but hope. Without hope, without some sense that this is not all there is, that there truly is a God who will come and restore all things, there will never be much love, at least not the kind of love that is truly Christian.” I think he hit the nail on the head.
Longing can bring hope, something we all need. We can’t have a resurrection without a cross, and we can’t have a cross without a birth. And we can’t have a birth if there is no need for a savior – it all starts with hope. And Christ came to offer Hope. Here are some definitions of “hope” I found today:
- a person or thing in which expectations are centered;
- to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence;
- to believe, desire, or trust.
Jesus came not only to offer hope but to be our hope. Think about this: our hope rests in the God of the universe being who he said he is, doing what he said he will do, and loving us as he said he will. If you can’t have hope in Him, what will you hope for?
Advent reminds us of God’s promises made millennia ago that he faithfully began fulfilling in the birth of a baby boy. As members of his family we can also rest in the hope that what he has laid out for our future will also come to pass at the ordained time. By observing Advent as a family we can reinforce this hope for ourselves and instill it in our children.