How do you celebrate the Christmas season with your loved ones? After Thanksgiving do you put up the Christmas tree and start wrapping presents? Do you start the Christmas music and other festivities? Those things are great, but do you celebrate Advent with your family?
As Christians, we all know the Christmas season is all about celebrating the birth of Christ. But, our celebration shouldn’t be limited to Christmas Eve and day. The time leading up to Christmas is a great opportunity to focus on Jesus’ arrival as you spend intentional time in family worship.
This week we turn our attention to how you can make Advent a part of your regular times of family worship with minimal effort.
What is Advent?
Before we talk about Advent and how to celebrate it with your family, we first need to talk about another term: the liturgical year. This is a fancy phrase that simply means “church year” or “Christian year.” It’s a calendar not much different than the Gregorian calendar we use today to demarcate the passage of time. Along with the passage of days, it also denotes special occasions.
A liturgical year works in similar fashion, except it focuses on dates important to the church. The two most important days of remembrance for Christians are: 1) Christ’s birth, and 2) his death and resurrection. Our modern calendars list these days as Christmas and Easter.
On the liturgical calendar, Advent is the season of preparation and anticipation for the celebration of Jesus’ coming. The word comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming.” Adventus is the Latin translation of the Greek word “parousia,” meaning the same.The word comes from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming.” Click To Tweet
Most often, when the Bible speaks of the parousia it’s in reference to Christ’s Second Coming. We all anticipate this coming and is one aspect of the season. The Advent season helps us remember the anticipation the Jews experienced as they awaited their Messiah. Yet, it is also an opportunity to remember how Jesus comes to us daily through the Holy Spirit.
According to the liturgical calendar, Advent always begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This day appropriately is called Advent Sunday.
How Can Advent Help?
So, how can Advent help us during the holidays? Here are four ways:
1. Advent reminds us that the season is not about us. Christmas isn’t even about friends and family. Instead, it is our annual reminder of God and his work. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He lived the life we couldn’t so we could be saved.
2. Advent broadens our view of the Bible. Outside of familiar Bible stories, most Christians don’t spend much time in the Old Testament. It contains lots of prophecy and hard to understand imagery. But, the Old Testament is important, and Advent shows us how it fits into the big picture of God’s work of salvation.
3. Advent slows us down. The Christmas season is beyond busy. We scramble to buy and send off gifts & cards. We attend parties left & right. Then there’s traveling to be with family. During this time it’s easy to slack off in our Bible reading. Advent readings remind us to take time for God during a season that is about him, when we’re apt to forget him.
4. Advent is great for families. Christmas is about Jesus. So, there’s no better way to teach our children and loved ones about God’s love than through daily Scripture reading leading up to Christmas. Many recognize this as an especially religious time of year, so why not grab hold of the opportunity? This can be a non-hostile way to share the gospel with family and friends that might not otherwise hear it.Advent always begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Click To Tweet
Advent & Family Worship
Because the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas is a time where we are more intentional about spending time together as a family, it is the perfect opportunity to incorporate family worship into your daily routine.
If your family regularly participates in family devotions, then it is an easy task to incorporate Advent into the mix, and is probably already part of your plan if you are following a system. But, if your family does not gather for family worship, the Advent season is the perfect time to get started. There are many great resources available to make the task effortless.
Here are four easy ways you can incorporate Advent into your family worship this season.
Use an Advent Devotional
If you are a family that is pressed for time or if you’re someone who doesn’t know where to get started with family worship, an Advent devotional is the perfect tool. There are no shortage of Advent devotionals on the market, but one of my favorites is Rick Brannan’s Anticipating His Arrival: A Family Guide through Advent.
Anticipating His Arrival is the perfect tool for busy families. It follows the liturgical calendar, so it is good for every Advent season, with the content refreshing every 3 years. Each day you are presented with a Scripture reading, as well as a few discussion questions (with answers) that help you talk through the passage with your family. It’s a straightforward resource that any family can use.
Read the Daily Readings
If you want to stick with the Bible, the lectionary daily readings are your best bet. Much like you would with a devotional, you can use the lectionary to do daily readings as a family. This will keep your family’s attention focused on Christ’s arrival during the season.
This can be done by itself, or you can include supplemental devotional material.
Be sure to read to the end of this tip to get your 2018 Advent readings.
Incorporate an Advent Wreath
Devotions and Bible reading are important tools to have for family worship during the Advent season. But, if you have younger children you may want something more visible and tangible. An Advent wreath is a great way to achieve this.
Developed by the German Lutheran church in the 16th Century, the wreath is a tradition that symbolizes the each of the weeks in the Advent calendar. Around the wreath are four candles (3 purple or blue, and 1 red or pink), which represent different things we should contemplate during the season. In the middle of the wreath is a larger candle.
On the first week of Advent your family lights one of the purple candles. This candle symbolizes hope or expectation. All the prophecies spoken in the Old Testament that point to the Messiah give us this hope and expectation.
Another purple candle is lit on the second week. This candle symbolizes peace. Christ came to bring peace between God and man.
For the third week, you light the first two purple candles and add the pink candle. This candle represents joy. There is great joy as we celebrate the coming of our Savior, knowing all that God has promised in his Word.
Then, on the fourth week of Advent, all four outer candles are lit. The final purple candle represents love. During this week we celebrate the love God has shown us by sending his son into the world.
Finally, on Christmas day the center candle is lit, representing the light of Christ. He is the center of our celebration and he is the light that has come into the world.
The other aspects of the wreath also contain symbolism. The ring shows that God’s love is unending. And, the wreath is evergreen, symbolizing God’s faithfulness, which also never ceases.
When joined with devotionals, this is a great way to celebrate the season.
Sing Christmas Hymns and Songs
The final way to celebrate with your family is with singing. Christmas music is all over the radio this time of year as we sing about Santa Claus, presents, snow, and so many other things. Why not take the opportunity to revive many of the classic Christmastime hymns and carols?
If you’re musically inclined, you can pull out your guitar or piano & play for your family. Or, if you have no musical talent (like me), you can easily find songs with lyrics on YouTube that you can play for your family. So many of the Christmas carols and hymns we sing are rich in theology and help us anticipate the arrival of the Savior in a joyous way.
Celebrate Advent with Your Family
This year Advent begins on December 2, 2018.
How will you celebrate the Advent season with your family? Will you make family worship a regular part of your holiday traditions?
Let me know how you plan to celebrate Advent with your family.
Weekly Study Prompts
This week, meditate and journal on the following passages:
- Monday – Philippians 1-2
- Tuesday – Philippians 3-4
- Wednesday – Hebrews 1-2
- Thursday – Hebrews 3-4
- Friday – Hebrews 5-6
- Memory Verses: Philippians 3:7-8; Hebrews 4:14-16