Advent, a season providing Christian families an opportunity to prepare their hearts for the celebration of the coming of the Lord into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ. The season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas. The word “Advent” is a Latin word meaning “the coming.” I believe that many families find it difficult to experience the true joy of Christmas due to unrealistic human expectations, which is often driven by the secular media. The oldest lie of Satan, “Look and see what will “really” make you merry.” Well, enough of the negative. Let’s share some ideas of how to focus on the truest and purest meaning of Christmas–Jesus and His love for all mankind.
The Advent Wreath: One of the most recognizable symbols of Advent. The wreath can be made by using various materials. Traditionally, the wreath is made of a circle of evergreen branches laid flat to symbolize the endless nature of God’s love for his people. Four candles stand in the circle. Three of the candles are purple and the fourth, the “Joy” candle is pink. Blue candles may also be used to emphasize our hope in God’s promise fulfilled in the Nativity. One candle is lit during the first week (Sunday) of Advent, two during the second week, three during the third, and four during the fourth week. The candles remind us of the light of God coming into the world, and the light from the candles grows brighter as each week comes closer to Christmas. ** Different colors may be used to signify other characteristics of Christ; and a white candle (Christ candle) is placed in the middle of the wreath and may be lit the Sunday closest to Christmas or on Christmas Eve. The Christ candle represents Christ Himself–pure and blameless, and without sin. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
For younger children, make miniature Advent Wreaths: Have little hands mold clay into circular wreaths, and then add birthday candles into the clay.
Devotion: When lighting the Advent candles, be sure and share a Scripture reading and or Christmas devotion. You may also want to sing some favorite Christmas carols. Pray together, asking the Lord to keep your hearts and minds focused on the true meaning of Christmas–JESUS!
Suggested Advent Resources: Connect! Dec/Jan/Feb 2012-13 Produced by: WordAction Publishing Company http://www.nph.com/nphweb/html/nph/itempage.jsp?itemId=CON-DJF%2012&nid=srch&catalogId=NA&catSecCd=NA&subCatSecCd=NA&subSubCatSecCd=NA Creative Communications for the Parrish also offers a nice variety of Family Advent devotions (Protestant and Catholic) at: http://www.creativecommunications.com
Littlest Angel or Good Elf Game — Countdown to Christmas while teaching children to do acts of kindness throughout the Advent season. Begin by reading some familiar passages of Scripture that denotes acts of kindness toward others. Suggested Scripture readings: The Good Samaritan–Luke 10:25-37, The feeding of the 5000–Matthew 14:13-21, Fruit of the Spirit–Galatians 5:22-23. Two Variations for playing this game:
1. Ask children to be intentional in showing acts of kindness each day. Tell them not to reveal the nice things they have done until someone asks them, “Did you make your sisters bed?” Then they can reply, “Must have been a good elf or little angel.” 2. Have children make an Advent chain from construction paper. After cutting 25 strips of paper to make the chain, ask the children to write down one act of kindness on each strip of paper. Example: Clean my room. Make a special Christmas card for my teacher. Tell a friend about Jesus. Etc. Then connect the links together to make a chain. The child will select one link each day and complete the act of kindness noted on that link. To make a Family Advent Chain, simply write out acts of kindness that the whole family may take part in. Example: Make cookies for a neighbor. Donate food to the local community food pantry. Babysit for a friend. Invite a family over for a meal or movie night. Etc. Be creative!
Nativity Scene — Instead of setting up all the nativity pieces at once, add a new piece each day. For instance, begin with the stable or an empty manger, then add a cow, a lamb, camels, the straw in the manger, the shepherds, the angel(s), Joseph, Mary. Then on Christmas morning, add baby Jesus to the manger. Variation: Set the three wise men across the room from the stable, and each day move them a little closer until they reach the manger scene on Christmas day. Each day read small portions of the Christmas story from Luke 2:1-20 and Matthew 1:18 – 2:11.