In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas prep — the cards, the shopping, the Christmastime treats — preparing our hearts often gets overlooked. That’s why, even though I don’t come from a church tradition that celebrated much of Advent, I have decided to make the most of it personally and in my family. And I want to help you do the same!
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I’ve gone to church my entire life, and I didn’t really know what Advent was until I was an adult. Actually, it wasn’t until I started working my current job managing a Christian bookstore. I was preparing some marketing materials about our Advent resources, and I realized I didn’t really even know what Advent was. As I began to read about it, I thought, “Huh. So that’s what it’s for!”
Growing up, we didn’t do much with Advent. Not that I can remember, anyway. We used to get those calendars with the little windows with the chocolate behind them, but it was little more than a countdown to Christmas. Or at least that’s what I thought of it as.
Now that I know what Advent is, I want to incorporate it into our family’s Christmas season. It’s an important preparation that I think is lacking in too many homes, even Christian ones.
Today I’m going to share with you a little bit about what Advent is, why we should observe it, a few ways to celebrate it, and my new favorite Advent devotional. I hope that you will see the need for your own family Advent traditions, and that this post gives you a few ideas of ways to do it.
WHAT IS ADVENT, AND WHY DO WE CELEBRATE IT?
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” and is a season of preparing to celebrate the first coming of Jesus while eagerly waiting for His second coming. It starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. Observances often include lighting a candle on each successive Sunday. Each candle represents a different theme of spiritual preparation — hope, preparation, joy, and love (depending on your denomination, the specific themes could be different). Typically, a white candle representing the light of Christ is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Not every Christian denomination celebrates Advent. As I have stated, the church I grew up in did not do much with it.
But I personally think that’s a shame. The more I learn about Advent, the more I think it’s a beautiful tradition with many benefits. Here are just a few:
- It puts us in a worshipful frame of mind
- It keeps Christ in the center of our focus
- It causes us to slow down in what can be a busy, even frantic, season
- It reminds us how much generations longed for a Messiah
- It builds our faith and confidence in God’s promises
- It takes the emphasis off getting gifts and puts it on the Greatest Gift
5 WAYS TO CELEBRATE ADVENT
Now that I’ve given a few reasons why your family might want to celebrate Advent, here are a few ideas for how to celebrate it:
- Buy or make an Advent wreath – Light the candles each week, explaining to your kids what each one means.
- Find free printables and activities online – Google it. There are tons of them out there! (visit https://onethingalone.com/advent-resources/ for some really great family activities)
- Make a daily list with your kids of reasons you’re thankful for Jesus’ birth
- Make a Jesse Tree – Here’s a comprehensive guide to making your own Jesse Tree.
- Read a family devotional – Read on for my new favorite!!
If you are interested in learning more about how to prepare you heart to celebrate Jesus’ birth, I highly recommend this Advent devotional from Asheritah Ciuciu.
We spend so much time preparing our homes, menus, and gift lists for Christmas that it’s easy to completely forget to prepare our hearts. Asheritah writes in the introduction, “Most Christians agree that Christmas is all about Jesus, yet few of our calendars would reflect that priority.” Ouch, right?
But Unwrapping the Names of Jesus will help you change that. Through daily devotions focusing on the names of Jesus, Asheritah will help you prepare yourself spiritually so you can worship Him like never before. Each day includes a Scripture passage, a short devotion, a challenge, a prayer, and Scriptures for further study, and will prepare your heart in the midst of the busy season.
There are even optional family advent activities to help you celebrate Advent as a family, which I love. And many of them are simple and practical enough for even young children, which I appreciate since my oldest is 3 1/2.
I absolutely loved this devotional (and I’m not even a big devotional girl!) for several reasons.
- I learned more about Advent and the meanings of the different weeks.
- I learned historical and cultural facts that connected me more to Jesus.
- The devotionals were short, but were not lacking in depth, as I’ve found some quick devotionals to be.
- The challenges helped me internalize and apply the messages of the devotionals.
- The activities are awesome! Some of them are standard Christmas activities that you’re probably already doing, and some of them are more novel, but all of them are very realistic and practical, which I appreciated!
I have no reservations about recommending this devotional to anyone looking to prepare their hearts to worship. And it wouldn’t even have to be confined to Christmas, either. Though the readings and activities center around the Christmas season, I think you could easily read this devotional any time of the year. Because Jesus should be adored all year ‘round.
While there are many lines that I loved in this book, here are a few of my favorites:
“Most Christians agree that Christmas is all about Jesus, yet few of our calendars would reflect that priority.”
“… I need to worship Jesus for who He is in the privacy of my home before I can fully celebrate His birth in the company of His congregation.”
“It’s easy to allow commercial light pollution to drown out the shining light within us.”
“He is not Lord if He does not have supreme authority to direct our actions.”
What about you? Do you come from a tradition that celebrated Advent? If so, I hope this gave you a few more ideas of ways to make the most of it. If not, I hope you are now inspired to start!
And whether you are just beginning to celebrate or have celebrated Advent your whole life, I know that Unwrapping the Names of Jesus is a book that you will want to include.
** I received a free copy of Unwrapping the Names of Jesus to review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review, however, and all opinions are my own.
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