I am soaking in and thoroughly embracing advent this year and I am finishing this post even though I wanted to publish it 2 weeks ago. Life has this funny way of going in ways that we didn’t anticipate and throw 10 people into one house and everyone’s ideas of what needs to be done make for different timelines.
I hope and pray that you are taking time this season to settle your heart and make room for Jesus. Maybe these ideas can help you this year or you can tuck them away for next year but know without a doubt that it is NEVER too late to look for meaning and to find Jesus as we approach Christmas.
The word “advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means coming or arrival. When we celebrate advent we are preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate not only Christ’s first arrival but to prepare ourselves in anticipation of his second coming. Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year Advent started on Sunday, December 3.
Advent Celebrations vary from family to family. Most commonly they include reading of selected passages from the Bible, the singing of Christmas carols, prayer and an Advent Wreath with 5 candles (3 purple, 1 rose and 1 white one or 4 white ones with 1 red one in the middle). Each candle represents an important part of Jesus’ story leading up to his birth. The scriptures focus on that theme for the week. The first purple candle is for prophecy. The second purple candle is for Bethlehem. The third candle is pink and represents the shepherds and God’s love. The fourth candle is purple and represents the angels. Then, finally, the white candle is lit on Christmas Eve and represents Christ.
Another tradition that we have adopted is the Jesse Tree. I first heard of it on Ann Voskamp’s blog and now she has a lovely book about it called The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas. We use this children’s book, The Jesse Tree to follow the Bible story from Creation through Jesus’ birth and hang corresponding ornaments on our Christmas tree as we read each story. The idea comes from Isaiah 11:1 “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” This passage is referring to Jesus coming from the line of Jesse. It is such a wonderful way to show God’s plan all along for the salvation of mankind.
We try to “do Advent” every evening after dinner but life is busy this time of year so it doesn’t always happen. Usually on the weekend we will take extra time and catch up on our readings. Some years are better than others but each year we strive to do our best and it is now a firm part of our family tradition and believe God blesses our efforts to focus more on him and less on the materialism and craziness of the season.
During our school day we are working through Cindy Rollins’ book Hallelujah: A Journey through Advent with Handel’s Messiah. It includes scripture reading, guided listening to Handel’s Messiah, carols, poems and verses to memorize. It has made our group time so easy to pull together. We are also reading (& coloring) Through Ann Voskamp’s beautifully illustrated book, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas. Her website has a free link to coloring pages I downloaded for the kids to color as they listen.
For read alouds we are reading Tabitha’s Travels this year as well as a few other books such as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! and lots of picture books like The Story of Holly & Ivy, An Orange for Frankie, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, The Legend of the Candy Cane, The Crippled Lamb, Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Christmas in the Barn.
I pray this Christmas season will find you curled up with your children reading good books that will draw you closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.