Great expectancy. Enduring hope. Celebratory joy. And then, abiding peace.
For many Christians, Advent is a meaningful way to not only journey through the nativity story but to deeply connect with these resonating themes found in Christ’s birth.
Because of its focus on prayer and contemplation, Advent allows us to step away from the holidays’ hurried pace and to breathe in the presence of God as we ponder and joyfully cherish the expectancy, hope, joy and peace seen in the nativity story.
It’s easy to see why celebrating the four Sundays of Advent is such a wonderful holiday tradition for families!
But where does one start? What can a family’s Advent prayers and celebration look like? And how can we keep weekly family Advent activities from becoming just one more holiday ritual?
I completely understand this! As parents of four kids, my husband and I don’t want to add “one more thing” to our family’s already overflowing calendar.
Instead, we want to include simple, soul-enriching experiences during this holy holiday season that bring us closer to each other and closer to God.
I’m about to share some beautiful, easy-to-understand Advent prayers and Scripture readings that help families like ours create rich Advent experiences so that we can bring this glorious season to life.
But before we dive into these Advent prayers and readings, I want to share the most important thing to remember about Advent: If you want to encounter a living God, you need to create an atmosphere of authentic connection.
One Important Thing to Remember:
Although many families choose to follow a traditional liturgical reading and response during their family Advent celebrations, there really are no rules about what a family’s “typical” Advent time can look like.
The only “rule” I would suggest is this: Challenge yourself (and your family) to use Advent as a simple time of heartfelt communication—both with God and with each other.
The story of Advent doesn’t change from year to year, but we do. Our circumstances, challenges—and even our relationship with Christ—can vary greatly based on what we’re going through. And that means that we must approach each Advent season with fresh eyes, asking the Lord to help us relate His timeless Advent truths to our lives in powerful new ways.
I’m going to give you some suggested Advent prayers and readings as a guideline for your family to follow, but overall, I want you to focus on this single principle: How can the themes of the Advent story radically impact me (and my family) in this current season?
Make your Advent meaningful, special and treasured by not focusing on the words themselvesbut the Holy Spirit who longs to revitalize our longing, hurting hearts.
Here are the 4 Advent Prayers, Readings and Conversation Starters for Your Family
First Sunday of Advent
Conversation Starters: Share about a time when you’ve had to wait expectantly for something. What was it like to feel in your heart that you knew something big was going to happen and yet to also know that you needed to wait for it? How does waiting for God to provide the answers allow us to trust him more?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, we start this Advent season waiting for you. Like the Israelites who wearily longed—hoping against hope—that you would bring your promised Messiah, we desperately wait for you to fill our hearts with your glorious presence this Advent season. Please allow us to see the beauty and refining that comes when we cease our striving and choose to boldly trust that your promises will prove true.
Second Sunday of Advent
Conversation Starters: Discuss this together (there’s no right or wrong answer): What do you think Mary was more surprised by—the appearance of the angel, or the angel’s message itself? Would you want an angel to give you a message about something that was to happen in your life? Share a time when God miraculously “showed up” in your life to offer you either physical or emotional provision in a way that you never could have provided.
Prayer: Dear Lord, for many of us, we admit that the story of the virgin birth has become so familiar that it’s easy for us to lose sight of how utterly spectacular and astonishing this event was. After years of waiting, your promised Messiah was to be born in the most unlikely of places to the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of ways. Only You can plan such awe-inspiring works! You are perfect in your ways, and your plans are magnificent! May we trust you with every aspect of our lives, remembering that Mary’s story assures us that you are able to show up and do the miraculous. Nothing, nothing is impossible for you, Lord!
Third Sunday of Advent
Conversation Starters: How do you envision all-consuming celebration of joy that the shepherds witnessed? In terms of your life, how do you celebrate both the big and little victories? Even if you’re going through something difficult in your life right now, what can you choose to celebrate with joy today as you remember that, like Simeon, God will fulfill His promises for you?
Prayer: Dear Lord, it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to see the armies of heaven lighting up the shepherd’s fields as they praised your name! And yet, because you have given us your salvation, we can confidently know that one day we will witness the armies of heaven riding behind you as the glorious, exalted King of all Kings in your second coming (Revelation 19:11-16). We praise you today that you chose to personally enter our world as the promised Messiah, humbling yourself to become human so that you could truly live among your people. With your birth, we are made whole! You offer salvation to all that call out to you, and that makes our hearts sing with joy!
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Conversation Starters: Describe the circumstances that Mary and Joseph found themselves in after Jesus’ birth. From a worldly perspective, do you think they had a reason for peace? How do you think the miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth (prophecies fulfilled, angels’ appearance, etc.) bolstered the faith of the young Mary and Joseph for their future life as the earthly parents of the Messiah?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you were born into a sinful, restless world looking for answers and desperate for peace. Our world today may not look like that of ancient Bethlehem, but it is an equally broken place filled with anxious hearts eager to discover purpose and lasting hope. We are so thankful that you demonstrate over and over that your heart’s desire is to connect with your creation, offering authentic joy, peace and love to all that call on your great name. This Advent season, may our world see your son’s birth as an olive branch of peace. No matter what their circumstances, may their minds be opened to the fact that you give us an incredible peace that cannot be shaken or taken away. Thank you for being the path to peace. We rejoice in your amazing peace today as we celebrate your son’s birth!
Enjoy these Advent prayers and conversations with your family, and may you and your family re-encounter the living God in an exciting new way this Advent season!
If you love simple-yet-powerful activities like these that bring Christ back to the holiday season, I’d encourage you to learn more about the Christ-Centered Christmas Family Traditions Printable System! This collection of faith-based Christmas family activities and decor—including a 30 day Christmas countdown Bible study that kids love!—is a wonderful accompaniment to your weekly family Advent prayers. Learn more here. Use the coupon code 5OFFCROSSWALK through December 6 to take $5 off!
Alicia Michelle, author, speaker and blogger at YourVibrantFamily.com, is passionate about helping women discover their beautifully imperfect journey through parenting, marriage, homeschooling, faith and homemaking. She’s also happily married homeschool mom of four curious and amazing kids who keep her on her toes! You can find Alicia at YourVibrantFamily.com, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 17, 2016