A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
I struggled for years trying to separate out a Christ-centered celebration of Christmas from the knock off version peddled by the increasingly secular culture. No sooner was the Thanksgiving dinner table cleared and the world was swept up into a vortex of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, shopping mall Santas and the demands of a hectic holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in for celebrating life and any holiday with gusto, but I did fear for the Reason for the Season.
And then I discovered Advent. It seems strange to say that I discovered Advent when Christians have been celebrating Advent since at least the fourth century. But now I can say that Advent has become one of my most meaningful and cherished times of the year. I find my life enriched by Advent traditions in slowing down a bit to take four weeks to focus on Jesus and ready myself to celebrate His incarnation.
Advent is a late Old English is derived from the Latin adventus, “a coming.” Significantly, adventus stemmed from an early translation of the Greek New Testament parousia that referred to Christ’s second coming. Thus Advent takes on ever-deeper meaning as we celebrate not only Christ’s humble first coming, but His coming again for us in glory. Advent also teaches us to be watchful for the many ways Jesus comes to us as “the least of His brothers and sisters” in the guise of the hungry, naked, sick and imprisoned.
Generation after generation of Christians have found the daily Scripture ponderings, prayers and practices sharpen their spiritual senses. The disciplines of Advent help clear out some of the clutter so that we can make more room for the reign of Christ in our lives.
Perhaps the most familiar Advent practice today is the daily lighting of candles around the Advent wreath. You can purchase Advent wreath kits online or from most Christian bookstores or craft stores. It’s fun to make your own Advent wreath natural or artificial. You can set the wreath and candles on your dining room table or a prominent place in your home. By the way, I’ve never known a child who wasn’t immediately drawn to the lighting of the candles!
Advent calendars can be a fun way to involve the children in counting down the days until Christmas and reading accompanying Scriptures. And of course, the calendars containing a daily chocolate are especially fun!
Most churches provide daily Scripture readings for the days of Advent; if not you can find them online. As one prayer focus for Advent you might consider praying with Christmas cards; as cards arrive during December take one card each day and pray for that person or family. It’s always great to include music in your Advent celebration, whether singing a carol or listening to a favorite CD. Other ideas for Advent celebration might be going caroling in your neighborhood or shopping for toys to give to a shelter for women and children.
For daily Scripture readings and reflections I also refer you to Water from Rock’s 2016 Advent Devotional: Good News for All the People. If you do not have a hard copy of the devotional you can order it on Kindle, or read it daily on the Water from Rock website beginning the first day of Advent, Sunday, November 27.
I am confident that you will be enriched, by making space each day of Advent to reflect on a Scripture reading, talk with God and look for His promised presence in the world. I pray that all the gratefulness and joy of Thanksgiving launch you into a wondrous Advent celebration!
Grace and peace,