As soon as Adam and Eve rebelled and sin separated man from God, God began instilling hope in His people through the promise of a redeemer. The Old Testament is one giant, exciting story of God's rescue plan. And, of course, at Christmas we celebrate the fulfillment of what He promised—that He would provide a way for us to be near to Him once again, despite our sin and brokenness.
The season leading up to Christmas is called advent, meaning coming. It begins four Sundays before December 25-- December 1st this year-- and allows us to build anticipation for who is coming. For four weeks, it’s as if we’re re-enacting, remembering the thousands of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the coming of God’s salvation, for Jesus.
It is also a time for us to remember that we are still awaiting the second advent of Christ, when He comes again to bring us home and restore the world (John 14:2-3).
If you didn't grow up participating in advent, don't worry. I didn't either! We can learn and savor together :) There are many ways to celebrate the season, depending on tradition, background, family size, etc
· Many of you have seen or uses an advent calendar, typically made up of 24 spots containing verses, pictures, candy, etc to count down the days until Christmas. As each window is opened and the final day draws closer, our expectation increases. This reminds us of the hopeful yet anxious waiting God’s people experienced as they longed for the promised Savior to come.
In our family, we have little felt pieces that represent part of the Christian Story tucked into each slot as well as a corresponding Bible verse. We read & talk each morning and then hang our ornament on the tree. It's really beautiful to see the whole story represented there on Christmas morning. (The felt pieces go with this book but we don't use it yet-- a little over my boy's heads).
We also have this and love it, especially for littles ones who are just starting to understand the concept of Christmas. This is also a favorite around here during the month of December to simply start the conversation. It doesn't have to be fancy or complicated!
· Another tradition is using an advent "wreath" made up of four or five candles (or just candles on a tray); it focuses on the idea of Jesus Christ being the Light of the World. Each Sunday, a new candle is lit in anticipation of Christmas Eve with the idea of ever-increasing light penetrating the darkness.
I love the idea of ever-increasing lights as Christmas day approaches! Lighting a candle and reading a family devotion together every Sunday evening is a wonderful & completely doable idea.
·There are many advent devotion guides and reading plans to center you each day or each week. Here are some of my favorites:
Jotham's Journey-- Our family is going to use this and I'm so excited, I've heard nothing but good things about it! It incorporates lighting candles and reading a short chapter every night.
Unwrapping the Names of Jesus-- I did this last year and really liked the setup; a devotion that can be read as a family each Sunday, a short devotion to read M-F, and then a small activity to do on Saturday that focuses on the week's theme. It was simple and easy to jump into!
Consider Jesus -- A 31 day advent devotional that is free with a donation to Revive our Hearts, a wonderful ministry.
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus-- a book to read all month long; I did this a few years ago and was so blessed.
Hidden Christmas-- a book by Tim Keller; it's on my list to do this year or next!
Solid Joys Podcast-- a quick podcast to turn on while you're cooking, full of advent wisdom and truth from John Piper and the Desiring God team. You could also go through Piper's 25 day devotional book here.
Treasuring God in Our Traditions-- it's not an advent book, per se, but it's full of ways to keep each holiday gospel-focused including sweet ideas for Christmas.
Prepare Him Room-- another family devotion to do all month long; I haven't done this one but have heard good things
Come Let Us Adore Him-- an advent devotion from Paul Tripp; this would be a great one for men/husband's to read and lead with!
Here's a blog post with lots of our favorite books. You could read and talk about one a night!
No matter what you choose to do, remember that it's not about what you're doing. It's about why you're doing it! Engage your heart, slow down, focus on Jesus first before decorations and gifts and cookies. After all, HE is the good gift.