5 Candles, a wreath, Scripture, short prayers… what difference can it make? Why should we do this every day from November 27th to December 24th?
We want to keep Christ in Christmas. We are continually fighting with our culture to keep the Christ in Christmas, yet our Christmas celebration looks more like the world’s each year. Advent is a way to introduce Christ into each day as we approach Christmas day.
Rituals do help. Often, we baptists argue against ritual, even as we develop our own. We follow ritual in the way we do prayers before meals. Our order of worship is it’s own liturgy. Why not use a pattern that the body of Christ has used for more than a thousand years? Empty, meaningless, or legalistic rituals are bad. But rituals that reconnect us with Christ, the gospel and the church are good!
It quiets the soul. Christmastime is loud. Loud music, loud lights, loud sweaters, loud co-workers at the Christmas party bar. Advent forces us to quiet. Candles, a wreath, a Scripture, a prayer… In quiet we find the wonder of Christ’s coming and the presence of God’s Spirit.
It reminds us of the past. Remembering is our chance to relive what has happened in the past. When we remember the coming of Christ in a meaningful way, we enter into the story of Christ’s coming. It becomes our story.
It reassures us of the future. Advent is “a coming, arrival, or beginning.” Jesus’ first coming was the arrival of the King. But Christians have always used this season to remember that another advent is coming. Jesus, our Lord is coming again in great glory, to restore all things.
Anyone can do it. It is simple to celebrate. Young and old, families, friends, couples and singles. This is for everyone who really wants to celebrate Jesus!
It brings faith home. Our families learn more about faith at home then at church. Our kids will learn things intentionally or unintentionally. If your church celebrates Advent during worship, you’re creating a wonderful bridge between home and church.
Everyone can share in it. The different parts of the celebration can be led by anyone. Listen to your kids pray. Hear Dad sing. Appreciate Mom reading Scripture. And when Grandma and Grandpa are over, or friends are visiting, invite them to share. This is an awesome opportunity to broaden and deepen your celebration. A simple, “this is what we do, would you like to join us?”
It makes the mysterious tangible. Can kids understand the mystery of the incarnation? I know I can’t. But I know when I see that wreath, feel the waxiness of the candles, smell the burning wick, hear the off-key tune of “Silent Night”… I will reconnect with a coming that has changed my life and changes my world. I can see, smell, touch, hear and believe the mystery again.
God shows up. One of our most memorable Advent celebrations was when our youngest son, Jonathan prayed to receive Christ after we discussed that Jesus came so we could be forgiven, but we needed to ask! At a young age of 4, he said, he wanted to do that. He prayed, we cried. And today we thank God for the open door Christ’s coming has provided.
Here’s a brief outline of how we’ve done Advent as a family.
- Put the Advent wreath & candles in the middle of the table.
- Light a Candle (1 candle lit each day the first week; 2 candles each day the 2nd week; etc; on Christmas eve – light all 4 and a final white candle to celebrate Jesus’ coming).
- Read a passage of Scripture (we focused on Matthew 1, Luke 2, Prophecies from the OT, and the “I AM” passages of Jesus.
- Sing a short Christmas Carol together (steal a hymnal from church if you must – ok, maybe you should ask first).
- Pray a prayer of thanks and dedication.
Other Suggestions: We had the kids take turns in lighting and blowing out the candles, reading, picking the Christmas song and even praying. It only took about 15 minutes, either just after dinner, or sometimes just before bed. We’ve done it at the dining room table, or around the coffee table, near the lit Christmas tree. Don’t force, but always be open to the spiritual conversations that might occur.