Growing up, Advent and Lent were seasons that not just my church but my family observed. Both were times of anticipation and waiting. Both were times of drawing closer to the manger and to the cross. Both were opportunities my parents used to start intentional conversations about the Gospel.
Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” It’s a time of preparation and expectant waiting that I’ve participated in for as long as I can remember. Colored candles glowed, manger scenes were played with, small calendar doors opened, the Christmas story was read, and the countdown for Christmas day grew in anticipation with each passing day. I found this video to be a helpful explanation of why seasons like Advent are important.
Q&A – The Advent Season from The Village Church on Vimeo.
Here are a few things I’m doing this year to prepare my heart along with a few additional resources and ideas from others your family might enjoy.
1. Advent Candles
For many years, people have been lighting Advent candles as a way to remember Christ being the light of the world (Matthew 4:16; John 1:4-9, 8:12). I’ve recreated this with 5 simple candles–four for the weeks leading up to Christmas and one for Christmas day. Traditionally these candles have represented different things–hope, peace, joy, love, and ultimately how all of these are found and fulfilled in Christ.
I’ve also chosen to spend sometime contemplating each word throughout that particular week (see chalkboard.) An easy way to do this is a simple keyword search using something like Bible Gateway. Here are a few thoughts on hope.
2. Advent Devotional Guides for Grown-Ups
Last year I used Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus to prepare. It features Advent excerpts from Spurgeon, Martin Luther, Tim Keller, etc…
This year, I’m using The Village Church’s free advent guide.
3. Advent Devotional Guides for Families
Over the years, Crossing Kids has developed several Advent Guides for families.
Last year, we took a closer look at how cultural icons of Christmas are really just sign posts that can point our families to a greater spiritual reality. “Every Good and Perfect Gift” is available for free download. You can also read more about how the Tiemeyer family used it together. Rachel Johnson also shared a list of her favorite Christmas picture books while Rachel Tiemeyer shared another great post with practical ideas for pre-schoolers. We will also have a new Advent devotional guide for you to take home and try at our Family Christmas Celebration next Wednesday, December 5.
Several families at The Crossing have also used Ann Voskamp’s version of The Jesse Tree that you can also download for free.
4. Advent Playlist
While I like some Christmas music and will enjoy it throughout the holiday season, I’m sure. The purpose of this is different, though. These are songs that create a since of angst and anticipation in me. There are songs that have a more Advent/Christmas feel to them like Red Mountain Church’s “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus and JJ Heller’s “My Savior’s Love Endures/Magnificat” but there are also quite a few other “anytime” hymns and songs that give clear reminders of where my Treasure really does lie.
Case in point, Page CXVI’s version of “Abide with Me.”
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour.
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
5. Treasuring God in Our Traditions
This incredible book by Noel Piper is filled with both vision and practical ideas on how to shepherd your child’s heart both every day and during special holiday seasons.