Observing the Church Year has its benefits. Not only do we celebrate Christmas, but we also commemorate the season of Advent. Advent is full of many wonderful traditions. Families can extend the excitement of Christmas by celebrating this four-week long season of preparation. (Advent begins this year on November 30.) Feel the rush to put up all the trimming the day after Thanksgiving? Let it wait, and think how you can enrich your family traditions by celebrating Advent. Here are 7 ways your family can bring Advent to your home.
- Buy or make an Advent wreath. Put it on the dinner table or in the living room. Light it for the evening meal or before bedtime. Involve the children in the daily ritual of lighting and extinguishing the candles. Each week watch the excitement grow as more and more candles prepare the way for the coming of Christmas. Jesus Christ has come to bring His light into our dark world.
- Celebrate family devotions. Pray the Lord’s Prayer or Luther’s Evening Prayer together as a family in the glow of the candlelight. Sing one verse of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”Find an appropriate Advent devotional (available at church-just ask) or read a story from the Bible. Use God’s Word to get your heart ready for Christmas.
- Hold the decorations! Space them out during the season. Pick a date each year in Advent to put up the tree. Traditionally the tree was put up on Christmas Eve. (Our family waits until the “Pink Sunday” [The Third Sunday in Advent].) Make Christmas Eve the climax of your decorating and think about how Advent can be a part of your preparations. Hold an Advent family party in your home on the first Sunday in Advent.
- Use or make an Advent Calendar. This was an old German way for the children to count the 24 days until Christmas. Each day a symbol of Christ or a verse of the Bible can mark the progress of the coming of Christ. An Advent calendar can be elaborate or simple...from a homemade paper chain to a manufactured paper calendar. Nice calendars are available at church-just ask.
- Celebrate an empty manger. Have a nativity scene in your home. Mary and Joseph should be far off traveling to Bethlehem. Their approach can be adjusted daily. Set up the magi somewhere else in the house as a sign that they are following the star to the infant Jesus. Put Jesus in the manger on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day before opening the presents. Bring the Magi closer and closer until January 6, the Day of Epiphany. Make sure to place the manger scene where the children can touch and enjoy it, giving thanks to God for His glory.
- Celebrate Christmas the whole month of January. Why throw the tree to the curb on December 26th? Let the glow of the Christ child extend throughout the season of Epiphany. Christmas means that Christ has come to this sinful world. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” isn’t just a song. Be counter-cultural and flip-flop how the world does it.
- Come to Advent Services. An old Lutheran tradition (which unfortunately has fallen into disuse) is the additional midweek services that are offered during the season of Advent. These services were some of the most formative religious memories that I had as a child. How exciting it was to see the darkened stained glass windows and delight to see another candle on the Advent Wreath being lit! Who can forget such memorable Advent hymns like “O Come O Come Emmanuel” or “Hark the Glad Sound”? Put aside the business of the season and use the rich Advent hymns and ancient expressions of faith to find peace and the real Spirit of Christmas. A warm meal is prepared for you beforehand.
The Lord bless your Advent preparations!