Advent began yesterday, on Sunday November 29 and continues to Christmas day. Whether your church celebrates with families lighting candles up front or another way, chances are you’ve heard of Advent. But is it something you put at the forefront of your family’s Christmas traditions? Advent is so much more than a delicious chocolate calendar counting down the days until Christmas.
Advent comes from Latin and means “coming;” its purpose is “to look forward to the coming of Christ to earth; it was a season that focused on waiting,” according to TGC Worship. TGC Worship, a gospel-centered multi-contributor blog, has contributed an article on The Gospel Coalition called Why Celebrate Advent?
Some may view Advent like the season of Lent, where you can celebrate it or skip it waiting instead for the big holidays like Christmas or Easter. I can’t help but feel when we skip over these waiting periods in anticipation of the real meaning of the holiday, we come up a little empty when the big day arrives.
There is so much build up before this holiday with decorations, concerts, plays and musicals, Christmas events, dinners, get-togethers, gift exchanges, Christmas Eve services, church (all wonderful things), and then it’s Christmas. We celebrate with gifts, food, maybe a movie, and family and friends if we are so blessed, but then it’s over and we slowly start to pack everything away. Do we come away with something greater, or do we only come away with new toys, full stomachs, and a little bit of exhaustion?
TGC Worship writes,
“Perhaps it’s because, for believers no less than non-believers, our calendars are dominated not by the venerable rhythms of redemption but by the swifter currents of consumerism and efficiency. The microwave saves us from waiting for soup to simmer on the stove, credit cards redeem us from waiting on a paycheck to make our purchases, and this backward extension of the Christmas season liberates us from having to deal with the awkward lull of Advent.”
Consumerism says go all out and don’t stop until you drop; it calls shoppers out in full force. While Advent simply says, wait.
TGC Worship explains,
“In a religious milieu that has fixated itself on using Jesus to provide seekers with their most convenient lives here and now, Advent is a particularly awkward intrusion. Advent links our hearts with those of ancient prophets who pined for a long-promised Messiah but who passed away long before his arrival. In the process, Advent reminds us that we too are waiting.”
“Even on this side of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, there is brokenness in our world that no cart full of Black Friday bargains can fix; there is hunger in our souls that no plateful of pumpkin custard can fill; there is twistedness in our hearts that no terrestrial hand can touch. ‘The whole creation,’ the apostle Paul declared, ‘has been groaning together for redemption.’”
As TGC Worship shares, Christians can embrace brokenness at Christmas and recognize it not as a hopeless status, “but as expectant yearning for a divine banquet that Jesus is preparing for us even now.” We are waiting for a final Advent that will usher in the return of the Savior, the one who will redeem our broken world completely. Advent reminds us that His work is not finished, and he “has yet to speak his final word,” as TGC Worship expounds.
This is something Christians should remind themselves of often, but even more so at special seasons like Christmas. TGC Worship is not suggesting that you throw out your tree or mute your Christmas music station in exchange for lighting candles, they simply want people to remember the meaningfulness of waiting. Waiting is not something that is viewed highly in our culture, in fact it is counter-culture to embrace waiting and to find not only contentment but joy in it.
Here are 5 ways to celebrate Advent with your family this Christmas season, as inspired by TGC Worship:
1. Start a family devotion that celebrates the real meaning of Christmas, and include Bible passages that explain the birth story of Jesus; dedicate time each evening to it and give it precedence.
2. Choose a book to read with your family over the holiday season that celebrates this time of waiting, either reading it out loud in the evenings or meeting to discuss what you read that day.
3. Turn off the TV one night and make something together as a family either a recipe or a craft. Discuss the significance of Advent with your kids while you make your own ornaments, bake cookies for a neighbor, or write Christmas cards to the shut-ins at your church.
4. Have your family make a list of as many broken things in the world as they can think of, and spend time praying over them and thanking Jesus that He is still at work and will redeem them all. Put the list up on your refrigerator as a daily reminder.
5. Put together a family activity that shows God’s redeeming work and how He delights in using believers, such as taking a meal to a neighbor or someone in your church who is in need. Give a family in need groceries, do some yard work for an elderly couple or widow(er) in your church or neighborhood, visit a nursing home, or participate in giving gifts to children who otherwise would not have any.
TGC Worship shares,
“Whatever you do, let it remind you that, because God has promised to make the world new and has vouchsafed this promise through an empty tomb, no moment of waiting is meaningless. Every passing instant is pregnant with wonder and beauty and glory.”
To read TGC Worship’s full article please visit The Gospel Coalition.
Whether you are single, married without children, married with grown children, or married with young kids, don’t skip over Advent this season. Advent is for everyone, and it is a reminder that every Christian needs.
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: November 30, 2015
Let go of the busyness and stress of the holiday season and open your heart and mind to peace by experiencing the joy of Jesus' birth as you use 12 Advent Prayers! Finding quiet time during the holidays will help you reflect on the reason for Christmas and preparing our hearts to celebrate Christ's birth. Let us know in the comments how you are preparing your heart!