With all of the lights and cookies and carols that exploded Friday, a smaller, quieter landmark holiday joy starts today- Advent. Advent is one of my favorite parts of Christmas because it leads me to Jesus, it grows in me a joy at the name Emmanuel, and it stills my heart in a time where distractions call for my attention like giant flashing lights- wait, they are giant flashing lights. No wonder I get distracted.
The word Advent means "to come." Christ came. He came to earth with a mission, and Christmas points to that first day, that first breath Jesus took as God in the flesh. We are also invited to come. Come to Jesus. Come and adore Him. Come and see of the wonders of His love. This is where Advent leads us on a journey of coming. We come to understand more, we come to love more, and we come to worship the Savior of the world, for He is Christ the Lord.
I've come to cherish Advent, the four weeks preceeding Christmas, and the time of coming that it brings. Throughout years of celebrating Advent and coming to see a bit closer the King who came close to us, I've assembled some different ways you can celebrate Advent too. Here are three ways to make Advent a part of your Christmas this year.
1. Do an Advent Bible study
There are several studies out there specifically designed to lead you through Advent. I've done a couple of them, including Ann Voskamp's The Greatest Gift and She Read Truth's yearly Advent studies.
The Greatest Gift ignited a passion for Advent in me. Ann gracefully traces the lineage of Christ, showing how each figure points to Christ. Each day contains a reading of scripture, thoughts from Ann, an action response idea, and questions to spur thoughts. I had so many thoughts in response to this book that I had to write in a separate journal to fit them all in one place!
She Reads Truth is an online community of Jesus followers that is always producing great content, containing scripture, thoughts, prayer, scripture memorization, and an uplifting community atmosphere. This year for Advent they are doing a study on how Christ perfectly fulfills the roles of priest, prophet, and king. The great thing about this study is that it is online and you don't need to buy anything! Just go to their website every day of Advent for a new scripture! You can also go to their archives and use last year's Advent study, which was great!
With the extra time you have during the holidays, use a little bit of it to read a book about Advent or the coming of Christ. A couple that I/my Mom (an indefinite resource on books in my house) recommend include Timothy Keller's Hidden Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs's The Women of Christmas, and Russ Ramsey's Behold the Lamb of God . Also, for families, or anyone who wants to know more about how Christmas traditions come about, check out Lisa Whelchel's The ADVENTure of Christmas. I learned a lot from this book growing up. Now I just have to decide which book I am going to read this year...
An Advent wreath contains a candle for each week leading up to Christmas and a candle for Christmas Day. It looks like the picture below, with three purple candles and one pink candle surrounding one white candle. During the first week of Advent, you light only one purple candle. During the second week you light two. On the third week you add in the pink candle. And you guessed it, you light the last purple candle on the fourth week of Advent. The white candle is reserved for Christmas Day. (See DIY ideas here, although many of them lack a center candle.)
To learn more about the specific meaning of the Advent wreath, check out this article. My favorite part of doing an Advent wreath is that it reminds me each night that Jesus is coming. It reminds me to come as well, and that's what Advent is all about.
I do go as far to say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but because of the joy, humility, peace, and unity that Christ brings. He is coming. He has come. He is coming again. Come and celebrate Christ meaningfully this Christmas by participating in Advent through one or more of these ideas.