Advent season is an invitation to you to choose to set aside the stress that has defined 2020 for pretty much everyone this year.
We have the chance to intentionally take our focus off of the hustle of the season and the sadness that could accompany the different ways some of us may be choosing to observe the holiday season this year.
Even when things feel chaotic, we can find peace in Jesus. Advent is a chance to focus our thoughts on the gift God has given us in his son Jesus who stepped down from Heaven and took the form of a man so that we might believe.
How Do You Celebrate Advent?
The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” Advent in the 4th and 5th century was a time of preparation for the baptism of new Christians.
Christians would spend 40 days in prayer and fasting to prepare for the celebration that accompanied the baptism of new believers.
Over time, advent was connected to the coming of Christ, originally Christians used this term to reference Christ’s second coming, but by the Middle Ages Advent was connected to Christ’s first coming that we celebrate at Christmas.
Today, we celebrate Advent over the four Sundays leading up to Christmas each year. This year we begin advent on November 29th and end this season of prayerful anticipation on December 24th.
Each week of Advent has a theme the first week we light a purple candle for hope (or promise), week 2 you light a purple candle for preparation (or waiting or prophecy), week 3 you light a pink or purple candle for joy (or peace) and week 4 you light a purple or pink candle is for love (or adoration).
Traditionally, each Sunday you would light a candle during a church service to mark the event. This year many of us may not be able to gather to observe Advent at church but that doesn’t mean you can’t embrace this meaningful practice in your home.
Here are 5 ways you can celebrate advent at home as a family:
1. Create Your Own Advent Wreath for Your Kitchen Table
One way to easily bring home the advent practice of weekly candle lighting and reflection is to add an advent wreath with candles to your table centerpiece. You can find many of these online.
Some traditions vary the colors of the candles lit each week while others keep the candles all the same color (traditionally purple) and then light a fifth white candle at the end of the Advent season. There is no wrong way to light these candles just as long as you are taking the time to pause and meditate on the meaning for the season you are doing it right!
If you are more crafty you could make a wreath for your table! A fun idea to get the kids involved in a crafty project by using their handprints as the decorative base for your centerpiece. This blog walks you though you can make the kids a part of your advent centerpiece.
If you are looking for a more refined piece to add to your table Craftivity Designs has a huge list of modern advent centerpieces that you can easily create for your home.
2. Read through an Advent Devotional as a Family
For the past few years my husband and I have selected an advent devotional to read aloud to our kids each night at bedtime over the Advent season. We have ready Waiting Here for You by Louie Giglio several times and have found these writings and prayers helpful to keep us centered on Jesus as we navigate the holiday season.
A great more kid friendly advent reading plan comes from Sally-Lloyd Jones’s Jesus Storybook Bible. She offers a reading plan from the Jesus Storybook Bible plus cute printable ornaments and coloring pages.
Last year we worked through her plan and activities with our kids and we all enjoyed re-reading the stories from the Storybook Bible together as well as adding the cute ornaments to our tree.
Focus of the Family offers a free downloadable family advent devotional that begins on Sunday, November 26th. You just sign up and they will email you the devotional to go through as a family. God with Us: A Family Advent Celebration marries the advent with the Jesse tree tradition.
This devotional includes readings that correspond with the 25 Jesse Tree symbols, prayers, and activities you can do as a family.
Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock
3. Create an Advent Playlist
Nothing fills your home with the holiday spirit like Christmas music! Why not edit that list a bit and create an “advent playlist.” This would be a list of songs that celebrate and remind your home of the Advent themes. Playing these songs often is a good way to create a worshipful tone in your home.
The theme for the first week of Advent is hope. North Point’s Emmanual is a beautiful reminder of the hope that we have because Jesus came and died for us.
Week two of Advent we are reminded to prepare our hearts to receive our Savior. Elevation Worship’s Here Come Heaven helps remind us that the build-up of Advent is because we are to awake our hearts again to the reality that Jesus came down from Heaven to save us!
Week three of Advent’s theme is joy so playing this joyful tune is a great reminder that we can be joyful this Christmas because we are celebrating the gift of Jesus. Phil Whickam’s Joy to the World is perfect for this theme.
Week four we are reminded of the Love of God. Hillsong Worship has a lovely version of O Come All Ye Faithful which calls us to come and adore our King!
These are just a few suggestions to get you started in creating a playlist that can help keep your home centered on Jesus.
4. Pray Each Day of Advent as a Family
Being intentional about family prayer time over the Advent season is a great way to bring more of Jesus into the season. Creating a card box for each of the Christmas Cards you receive and pulling one from the box to pray over is one way to help organize your prayer time.
You could even send that family a little note or message letting them know you spent time praying for them as a family.
A prayer garland is another way to organize your daily prayer time. Construct a red and green ringed garland and write a name on each ring. Each night break off one ring and pray over that person or family. Something as simple has writing names on popsicle sticks and putting them in a jar on the table to pull and pray over works too.
Praying for those you love who likely had a more stressful year than they anticipated is a great way to show love for your community this holiday season.
5. Be Intentional about Serving Others over Advent
There are so many great ways to serve and give to others over the Advent season. Our family has packed boxes for Operation Christmas Child for the past several years. My kids have loved getting to choose items for kids their same age and writing them a heartfelt card makes the practice feel very personal.
Finding ways to support local nonprofits or ministries that are reaching out to those around you that may not have the funds to celebrate Christmas is a great way to give back in your own community. There is a local nonprofit in our area that matches families in our community giving you the chance to fulfilll a family in need's entire Christmas list!
When many of us are spending our time and money giving to people who have everything, it feels remarkably good to be able to give to a family that would otherwise go without. Seeking out opportunities like this is a great way to make Advent about a lot more than just getting your own wishlist fulfilled.
Sadly, in many places there is an uptick in Foster Care placements over the holiday season, which can be devastating for families and also puts an extra burden on Foster parents who may suddenly be buying for an extra child this year. Finding ways to support Foster Parents during this season is a great way to serve your community.
With COVID so many of us may not be seeing family or friends as we normally would be. Making cards, baking cookies, and writing letters to neighbors or those who you know can’t have company is an amazing way to show love as we wrap up a very hard year.
Honestly, I think we all need a little extra Christmas and a lot more Jesus this year!
We already have our decorations up and Christmas music blaring because it is a reminder to stay joyful as we enter the final stretch of this year. Even though our churches may not be gathering and our family dinners may be a little smaller we can still share the good news that Jesus came as our Messiah to our children!
That is a joy that cannot be stolen by a pandemic or any other trying circumstance.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/FamVeld
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.