We will spend this Advent season preparing our hearts for the time when we meet Jesus face to face. We will spend it living out our family commitment to find as many ways as possible to share the message of Jesus’ perfect gift of Salvation with as many as we can as we share His grace in practical ways, with His love, through His strength, so that they can see and touch and realize His love for them. ~Mary Joy, Finding the Hope of Advent in the midst of the Pain.
A couple of weeks ago, I poured out my heart in an article called “Finding the Hope of Advent in the midst of the Pain”. If you missed it, I invite you to take a few moments to click over and read it. In it, I began to share what Advent is like for our family this year. After this article was published, many of you wrote me private messages on Facebook, asked me in comments on our Unwrapping His Grace Community Facebook page, or through email what Advent is and you asked me to share more about how our family celebrates it and how we are doing it without Will here to lead us.
As I shared in the previous article, Advent has always been one of my favorite seasons of the year and it was Will’s too. We spent the last two years, our first two Advent seasons as a family, finding ways to reflect and take time to act on the Gospel of the time leading up to and the birth of Jesus our Savior. This year, we are keeping some of those traditions and adding some more. But before I begin sharing what we are doing as a family during Advent this year, I am going to share with you what Advent is, for those who are unfamiliar with it.
I was introduced to the season of Advent while I was a child growing up in a Roman Catholic family. I loved how our church and our family, took the time to really prepare our hearts and thoughts to focus on preparing for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. After I left the Catholic Church in 1996, I was thrilled to discover that there are many Protestant denominations that also celebrate the season of Advent.
So what is Advent?
Advent…means a time of preparation and anticipation. The idea is to spend the four weeks before Christmas Day in a time of preparing our hearts and lives for the coming of Christ. It is also a time to focus on sharing the Good News of Jesus with others…after all…Jesus is the Gift to all of mankind that we celebrate as we celebrate Christmas. In today’s world it can be very difficult to remember that as we are bombarded by commercials, ads, signs, sales that shout “love means spending a fortune on gifts for Christmas”!
When we celebrate the season of Advent, it helps us to keep our focus on Jesus and preparing and anticipating His coming…as a baby over 2000 years ago and the incredible fact that He will come again! As I begin this series in which I share our family’s Advent traditions and activities, I am going to begin with how it connects us and helps us to dig into God’s Word, the Bible and connect with Him in prayer as communities, families and as individuals…through reading Scripture and taking time in prayer.
The symbol/tradition that most of the churches/Christian families who celebrate Advent have in common is called an Advent wreath.
I am going to share the Advent Wreath with you first because it really helps to explain the focus of the season. There are four Sundays in Advent. There are anywhere from 22-28 days in the season of Advent depending on what day of the week Christmas falls on that year. There are five candles in our Advent wreath. The four outer candles represent the four Sundays of Advent. The inner White candle is a special candle that we will light on Christmas morning to celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
Some Christian traditions have purple candles, like we do here, and some have blue ones. Depending on the tradition you are coming from will define what the color represents. For us, purple is the color of royalty and reminds us of the fact that Jesus is King of heaven and earth. Each Sunday of Advent begins a new week of our Advent celebration and each week we add one more candle to the candles that we light each day during our family devotions…and on Sunday, during our church service we add one more too.
The first week of Advent, we focus on HOPE. The Hope we have in Jesus! The Hope we have in His birth and that He will come again! All during that week we light one purple candle during our devotions.
The second week of Advent, we focus on PEACE. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the peace that we search for in this world can only be found in Him. This week we light two purple candles during out devotions.
The third week of Advent, we focus on JOY. The joy we experience as we anticipate the birth of our Savior and His return and the incredible joy God gives us as a fruit of the Holy Spirit that grows in our hearts, the closer we get in our relationship with God through reading and applying His Word in our lives…and accepting the amazing gift He gave us with his birth, life, death, and resurrection…the gift of Salvation through Jesus! The third week of Advent we light the first two purple candles that we have been lighting and add to it the pink (rose) candle.
The fourth week of Advent, we focus on LOVE. The Love that God had for us that He would send His ONLY begotten Son to earth to be born, live, and die in our place as He took on our punishment for our sins. The fourth week we light all three purple candles and the pink (rose) candle.
The white candle is set aside to be lit on Christmas morning in remembrance of Jesus’ birth! He was fully God and fully human and pure without sin! On Christmas morning we light ALL five of the candles.
The wreath itself is special too. It is usually made of evergreen branches and is formed in a circle and represents the fact that Jesus is eternal and always lives! Some people have red berries in their wreath which represents the drops of blood that He shed for us when He was crucified. Ours has pine cones in it and I explained to our children that this represents the wood that the manager was made of and he was placed in as an infant and also the wood of the cross that He would someday be crucified on as He took the punishment for our sins.
The flame of the light of the candles represents the fact that Jesus is the light of the world and came to bring light into the darkness and that He overcame the darkness of death.
In our family, in the past, Will would lead us in our Advent devotions and we gathered as a family and used the Jesse Tree devotions as our focus. He and I had decided to make a change and use the Advent Wreath this year so I decided to go with what the decision he had led us to make for our family.
Having our time of Advent devotions has been strange without Will here to lead us. Each of us has so many memories of him leading us in song, listening to him read the Scripture for the day and sharing with us what that passage means to us today…and leading us in discussion and prayer. My heart caught in my throat the first week we had our Advent devotions without him. But each day, God has given me the strength and the peace to lead our family in this special time of prayer.
We keep our time of devotion simple but meaningful, and child friendly. We try to have Advent Devotions twice a day. Once to begin our Homeschooling day and once at Bedtime. But you don’t have to do that to enjoy Advent devotions. It just works for us. Most people light the Advent Wreath once a day.
We open with Christmas Carol or Hymn like “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and I light the candle(s) for that day while we sing.
Each morning we use the amazing FREE Advent Activity/Devotional Guide from Thriving Family Magazine called “Knowing Him by Name”. I love that it has hands on activities with each devotion that are short and simple but really help our children to understand the meaning of the Scripture for that day. I also love that this year’s activities/devotions are focused on the Names of Jesus. For example, today’s was on the name “Wonderful Counselor”.
We do the activity listed for that day and then I read the short devotion to our children that applies the activity we did to the Scripture verse for that day and helps them better understand that Name of Jesus.
Then I have Josh, or the oldest child present, read the verse for that day.
Following this, talk a little bit about the Scripture and devotion we just did making sure they understand it and how it can help us in our lives.
Then we talk about what we are going to do that day to share the Gospel with people in our family at home or what we are going to do to share the focus for that week with someone or a group in our community. (I will share more about this in the next article.)
Following this, we have a time of prayer. Everyone has a chance to share their prayer needs with our family so we can pray for them.
I lead our family in prayer for all of the needs shared and we close with singing “Silent Night”.
At bedtime we are using something a little different.
We open with a Christmas Hymn/Carol which one of the kids requests.
Then I use the wonderful devotional that Stephanie Page wrote, called “Preparing for Christmas- a 25 Day Devotional for Families”. You can get the first five days of devotions free over on her website! I just love how she helps us to really think about the amazing gift God gave us and how we can share it with others. It is simple to use and I just love the discussion questions she gives us each day! They have sparked wonderful conversation with our family. I was so blessed to receive a copy from her as a gift after she shared her guest post and we did her giveaway on the blog.
It includes a special Scripture reading for that day.
A short and meaningful devotion.
Then we use the wonderful discussion questions she gives us for that day that help us really think about the reading and how to apply it to our lives.
Then we talk about how we served others in a selfless way as a gift to our Savior that day. This is a part of our Advent Joy Angels Club that we have in our family this year for Advent. We are really excited about it! (I promise to share more about it in the next article in this series!) Each person who has served others or shared the love of God with someone gets to put a dollar in our “Joy Bucket” which is the money we are saving up for our big gift to our Savior that we will order on Christmas Eve! (Also part of the Advent Joy Angels Club which I will share in the next article, I promise!)
Then we close in prayer. I ask for prayer requests from each of us again and then we have the Christmas cards we have received so far with us and pray for each person/family who has sent us a card. We also pray for the mission organizations we are supporting this year (I will share more about this in a future article).
We close again with Silent Night.
We are all really enjoying our time of focusing on the true meaning of preparing for Christmas during our Advent family devotions. Even though these times of family prayer are bittersweet as we do them without Daddy for the first time, they are really helping us to focus on the amazing gifts that God gives us and the joy of serving Him with a grateful heart.
I hope this helps you to better understand how we celebrate Advent and what Advent is. And I hope you will join me for the rest of this series as I share the many activities and service opportunities we are excited about as a family this year.
I pray that the two weeks remaining until Christmas are filled with the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ as you prepare your hearts and lives for the coming of Jesus! I will be sharing an Advent Scripture from “Know His Name” each day on our Unwrapping His Grace Facebook page.
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I would love to hear about your family’s Advent traditions!! Please share in the comments!!!
Unwrapping His Grace for His Glory,