Advent Wreath: Probably one of the most well-known symbols of Advent is the Advent wreath. This is basically a simple, evergreen wreath surrounding four candles. Many craft stores have ready-made ones now, or you can make one as a family (just be sure to place the candles in sturdy candle-holders). Three candles are the traditional purple, and one is rose-colored. Some families also place a white candle in the center of the wreath for the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (Dec. 25th - Jan. 6th).

The four candles represent the four Sundays before Christmas day. Before dinner each Sunday, help a child light the new, corresponding candle as well as all the candles representing Sundays already passed. Say a prayer as you light the candles thanking God for the hope found in His Son, the light of the world.

Light the rose-colored candle on the third Sunday (not the fourth!). The “pink Sunday” symbolizes a break in the darkness, and a time of joy as Christ’s birthday gets closer. The pink candle is a good benchmark for setting up your Christmas decorations if you don’t want to wait until the night before Christmas to do so. On Christmas day, light all four candles, along with the fifth, white candle which symbolizes Christ’s official arrival and the beginning of the end to earthly darkness.

You may want to read Scripture with the lighting of each candle. Here are some suggested readings:.

1st Sunday: Isaiah 63:16-17, Isaiah 63:19; Psalms 80:2-19; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

2nd Sunday: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalms 85:9-14; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

3rd Sunday (rose): Isaiah 61; Luke 1:46-54; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-28

4th Sunday: Malachi 3:1-24; Psalms 25:4-14; Luke 1:57-66

Christmas Day (white): Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalms 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Advent Calendars: Advent calendars represent a fun side to this season of waiting. You’ve probably seen them in stores – thick cardboard or wooden calendars with manger scenes or other Christmas-related images. For each day in December you’ll notice tiny, numbered doors. Starting with the first Sunday of Advent, have a child open door #1. Continue to do this until the 24th day, taking turns as each family member gets a chance. Typically, a piece of chocolate awaits the opener, but to stretch this tradition beyond a sugar-high, buy a calendar that has Scripture or religious symbols behind each door. Read and discuss as a family.

For parents and teens who want to prepare for Christmas on a deeper level, there are special Advent devotionals for this time of year (check out your local Christian bookstore) as well as opportunities to add fasting and prayer to your weekly schedule. Given the traditional penitential nature of this season, it is also a wonderful time to reflect on the past year and ask God's forgiveness for any sins in your life that may be hindering your relationship with Him. As you set time aside to really contemplate the meaning of Christ’s coming, don’t be surprised if this Christmas Day holds an extra measure of joy for you and your family as you experience an increased awareness of His presence in your lives.