Plan now for Advent! This year we begin Advent on November 29th, the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Celebrate each day from November 29th to December 24 with your family in order to discover the light of Jesus on Christmas day!
For followers of Jesus, Advent is a season of anticipation and expectation. It is a time to prepare our hearts and lives for celebrating the birth of Jesus. A time to make space for something meaningful in our lives. A time to adjust our focus to be more Christ-centered.
During Advent we enter into a time where we celebrate many traditions that mean so much to the Body of Christ, the church, and families; traditions we have been celebrating for years, even generations. There are many traditions in the church that help us walk through and commemorate this joyous season of expectation and celebration yet how can we as leaders help families celebrate advent at home?
Generally, the noun advent is used for the introduction of something important. The advent of something means it's finally here. You might be waiting for the advent of a new baby, a new job, a new house, a ministry (get the idea). This year many of us are waiting for the advent of a new year, in hopes of new life experiences.
One of the most traditional ways we observe this special time is through the use of an Advent Wreath. These wreaths can be made of winter greenery, using five candles. Try using three purple candles, one pink, and one white candle. Go ahead and get your candles now to be ready for your observance of Advent. Light one candle each Sunday during the season of Advent. Wait to light the white Christ Candle on Christmas day. Along with the tradition of lighting candles, share devotions about those who were part of Jesus’ story, Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, Elizabeth, Innkeeper, Shepherds, Star, Magi, Prophets, and so forth.
Try making your own wreath this year. For families with small children create a wreath using paper products. Gather a sturdy paper plate, crayons or washable markers, small paper towel tubes, construction paper, scissors, and a bit of glue. Color the paper plate green and add red to resemble berries. The tubes, the candles, can be wrapped in purple, pink, and white construction paper. Also, use yellow construction paper to make candle flames, hiding them inside the tube until ready to light the candle.
For families with older children, and if you have pine trees in your yard or in a wooded area near you, take a family walk to find greenery for the wreath. Look for pinecones, berries, etc., which can be used to decorate and make the wreath realistic. A little floral wire can help keep the greenery together as you shape a wreath. Any candle holders could be used; they don’t need to be the same. Variety makes your wreath unique. Appropriately, the white candle is placed inside the wreath, and the other four are set on the outside of the wreath.
If you have your own special wreath, use it! Just a reminder, when lighting candles, stay close to children at all times!
And, for the devotions? There are some wonderful books with devotions on cokesbury.com. Order now so your family can have devotions ready to use.
Another simple way to reflect weekly around the Advent Wreath is to read scripture verses that tell the story. Simply light the candle, read the scripture, talk about the story, sing a hymn, and share a prayer. Encourage different family members to take a role each week. Encourage children to use their gifts and talents during Advent by singing carols, dressing up in Bible time attire and acting out the devotions and stories or by having them read passages of scripture or pray.
Focus on these passages to guide your time through Advent.
- Week One: Gabriel
Read Luke 1:26-38.
- Week Two: Elizabeth
Read Luke 1:26-38.
- Week Three: Joseph
Read Matthew 1:18-25.
- Week Four: Shepherds
Read Luke 2:8-20.
- Christmas Eve or Day: Jesus’ Birth
Read Luke 2:4-7.
- After Christmas: Magi
Read Matthew 2:1-12.
Use an Advent Calendar as you observe this season of anticipation. There are advent calendars that can be purchased commercially, but they can also be made at home as a family activity. This action will provide special meaning, and allowing them to be personalized.
Create an Advent Prayer Calendar using a 24-cup mini muffin pan. Place in each cup the name and perhaps picture, of a family member, missionary, leader, or a friend/neighbor to pray for that day. Add some type of treat, a scripture verse or something else meaningful within your family. Each muffin cup needs to be covered with colorful papers to create anticipation and fun. Make sure to include numbers 1-24 for each muffin cup. Invite family members to use their creativity along with a variety of craft supplies to decorate this calendar. Each day in December family members remove the appropriate lid and celebrate being a day closer to Christmas.
Create a Justice Advent Calendar. My friend Kathy Troussiant-Williams shared this idea with me. Use a large plastic hanger, ribbon, and twenty-four small tulle gift bags. These bags can be found either online, or at a store that sells craft supplies. Number each bag from 1-24. Each bag will contain a message from scripture about justice, such as Micah 6:8. Remind kids of Bible stories about biblical heroes who worked for justice for all. Fill the bags with the verses and perhaps a treat, then attach bags to the plastic hanger. Along with these ideas Kathy is putting in an idea for a daily mission action to help others. And the addition of some candy makes the bag even sweeter!
Create a Family Advent Calendar. Each bag could contain a picture of a family member, an unusual or special moment from their life story, and an idea to connect with them or honor them. Add a Bible verse and something else meaningful within your family. This creates a rich opportunity to celebrate with family, even if you can’t gather with them this year. Add a sweet treat to each bag as an optional idea.
Create a Names of Jesus Advent Calendar. There are more than enough names of Jesus in scripture to fill an Advent Calendar, such as Immanuel, Son of God, Light of the World, Good Shepherd, Messiah, Prince of Peace, I Am, and many more. Place a Bible verse relating to a name for Jesus in each bag. This invites great conversation and the opportunity to keep the focus on Jesus throughout the season.
Other Advent Ideas
Create an Advent Book Basket. When my sons were young we had an Advent Book Basket. This tradition became one of our favorite activities. It was created to help them focus on the real gift of Christmas with all the anticipation and excitement of opening gifts on Christmas Day. Find twenty-four books to use. No need to purchase books just use special ones you own. Use holiday paper and wrap each book individually then place them in a large basket. Each evening, have a child select a book from the basket to read it together as a family. Have a system in place so all children have turns experiencing the joy of unwrapping a book. By Christmas, the basket will be empty. Create special memories for your family using this favorite activity.
Create an Advent Food Basket. This idea is one that several neighbors can do together to help others in need during this season of giving. Decorate a large cardboard box to use for your food collection. Each day look for something that might help someone make a Christmas dinner. Some ideas include salt, flour, canned green beans, corn, cornbread, pepper, oranges, pecans, potatoes, and so forth. Make sure to refrigerate cold items! Every day put a new item in the basket and on Christmas Eve, add a turkey or ham and deliver it to a family in need. It is such a great way to teach sharing with others at Christmas time.
Thank you for the many ways you are leading your family of faith this year. Your investment in them will be of such encouragement, reminding them to celebrate Immanuel and to anticipate that God wants to birth anew in each of us during this special year.
- On the Way to Bethlehem by Daphna Flegal
- Celebrate Wonder Bible Storybook by Brittany Sky
- All I Want for Christmas by James Moore and Suzaan Wade
- Goodnight, Manger by Jane Chapman and Laura Sassi
- Colors Come From God…Just Like Me! by Carolyn A. Forche
- Christmas is Coming But Waiting is Hard by Karen Whiting
- Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard H. Schneider
- Children’s Dramas For the Church Year by Abingdon Press
- What is Advent? by Marcia Stoner
- Let’s Make a Jesse Tree by Darcy James
Sandi Evans Rogers
Grossnickle Church of the Brethren
Let’s Raise a Joyful Shout to God
Seize the Advent Challenge
An Advent Devotional
Using Social Media to Stay Connected