Each year, as November ends, Christmas season catapults upon us—with decorations, shopping, carols, brochures, cards, and parties. We cringe when these valuable holiday obligations threaten to overshadow the beautiful message of the season: hoping in and celebrating the promised Messiah. To remedy this problem, twenty-first century believers may need Advent practices even more than their historical ancestors, those who first added these practices to the church calendar. Officially, Advent—comprising the four Sundays (and the weeks surrounding them) before Christmas—celebrations incorporate readings, lighting candles, singing songs of Christmas expectation. But, we need not so narrowly restrict Advent observance. Advent is a favorite time for my family and me. Below find a few ways to “Wait for Christ” together and refocus on the Savior’s coming:
1. Make or use an Advent calendar—I suggest you try the ones with windows and verses (yes, chocolate truly is secondary) or the ones with pockets where you add surprises (from tickets to a Christmas light show to the announcement of cookie baking day). Don’t stress if you miss a day or if some of the windows are already opened because someone “couldn’t help peeking.” (Examples of calendars: https://www.amazon.com/Newborn-Nativity-Calendar-Countdown-Christmas; https://www.amazon.com/OurWarm-Christmas-Ornaments-Countdown-Decoration). Or complete a Jesse tree advent calendar; this combines reading and crafts (Google “Jesse Tree ornaments PDF, and you will find downloadable patterns. Or, you may order your tree ornaments premade, which is more expensive but keeps you from “Pinterest-envy”; one example is: https://www.amazon.com/DIY-Jesse-Tree-Ornament-Advent. Either way, you should use a Jesse Tree devotional. Free ones are on the Internet. Age-group oriented ones are available for purchase.)
2. Build Advent traditions—The choices are myriad: from making crafts such as stamping personal wrapping paper or decorating cookies, from adding service activities like visiting a church shut-in to shoveling a neighbors’ snow to reading Christmas books (Lift the Flaps Nativity, The Glorious Impossible), from watching Christmas movies (It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, The Christmas Carol) to sending personalized Christmas greetings. (Write a serviceman, buy a goat through an organization like Samaritan’s Purse, invite someone to dinner, a concert, or holiday show, and even sing carols with Nana via FaceTime.)
3. Use a daily Advent Devotional—So many organizations and churches offer them online. Or, you can purchase an advent book. Two of my favorites are Watch for the Light and The Wonder of the Greatest Gift. Again no guilt is allowed: don’t worry when you miss a day. Maybe you will hit that date next year. With advent reading, we are building habit, not adding another holiday responsibility.
Whatever you choose: enjoy the wait; embrace the promise. For Christian believers, the warning “25 Shopping Days ‘til Christmas” should not dominate our Decembers. Instead, for all of us, the “Advent-ure” awaits!