Many people complain that the focus of Christmas is on the material things and they’re too busy to enjoy it. Christmas is here before we know it and over in a flash. The best way I know to remedy that is to observe Advent. Advent is the weeks leading up to Christmas, beginning the Sunday closest to November 30. There are always four Sundays in Advent, though the number of days can vary depending on the calendar each year. The purpose of the Advent season is to anticipate Jesus’ coming as a baby, His incarnation, but also to anticipate His second coming in the future. There’s both joy and somberness in Advent because we reflect on the reason Jesus came—our sin. Advent keeps the meaning of Christmas front and center in our attention. It’s a great training opportunity for families to disciple their children in age-appropriate theology of the incarnation and the prophetic promises fulfilled in Jesus. And no matter how old we grow, it’s always spiritually enriching to dwell on these biblical truths.
Angie Mosteller’s website has a lot of great information on holidays, and she has some good ideas for observing Advent. She explains the meaning and history of Advent here. One of the more familiar Advent traditions is the wreath with four candles, which mark each Sunday of Advent, and each candle has a meaning to focus on the journey toward Christmas. Angie has a simple guide for families to use an Advent wreath with a short Bible verse for each day. Her other ideas for observing it are here.
Involve younger children by letting them open the door on the Advent calendar, read the selection for each day, or light the candle when they’re old enough. My sister involved my nieces in this way, and because they were active rather than passive, my nieces remember the annual practice. (Be prepared for some arguments as siblings often do, but come up with a schedule or a job for each child.) Focus on the Family has a variety of resources for family devotion time. Advent calendars are also a good way to involve children. Skip the ones with chocolate and choose an attractive one that has a daily Bible verse. There are a lot of inexpensive options on Amazon.
An Advent calendar is also a nice way to help an elderly person mark the season. When my mom was in assisted living during the last couple of years of her life, I hung a pretty Advent calendar next to her bed and read the daily verse for her each day when I visited. It’s also an easy way to brighten up a room and bring a little cheer. I’ve noticed that elderly people who are physically confined really respond to simple, little changes like that.
Observing Advent as an individual or as a family with older children can be as simple as changing up your daily Bible and devotion reading. Here are some resources:
- Biola University CCCA Advent Project
- John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy
- The Lutheran Hour Ministries has good resources and will begin a daily devotion series on the first Sunday of Advent.
- Nancy Guthrie has a daily family devotion for Advent.
- It can be as simple as weekly readings on each Sunday of Advent (with or without the Advent wreath), and Mark D. Roberts has a helpful guide.