With all the Lego calendars and chocolate calendars and elves and toys, you may be thinking, “Really? I have to add another thing to my holiday season?” Well, first of all, no, you absolutely don’t. But let me tell you why you may enjoy celebrating Advent. I’ve long been a lover of Advent. In the fullness of the Christmas season, Advent anchors me. The point of this simple practice is to build expectation as we remember the first coming of Jesus and as we look forward to His second coming as King of Kings. The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival” and if you look into the history of the church, Advent is celebrated with candles and scripture reading, all with the intent of awakening our hearts with a renewed sense of waiting for the Messiah: the One who has come and will come again.
Growing up in my family, we celebrated Advent on Sunday evenings by reading scripture, singing a hymn, and talking about Jesus. We do this with our kids and we like to purposefully keep what we do as a family the same each year to build upon the tradition of it and to keep things simple. You can check out my simple Advent guide here. I also enjoy reading a daily Advent devotional on my own. Celebrating Advent doesn’t need to be complicated or fancy, in fact, it shouldn’t be! It is meant to be a reprieve, a chance to take a breath and reflect on who Jesus is and what He means in our lives.
If I burn the Christmas cookies right before a party or my toddler breaks a special family heirloom ornament or if I get in a fight with my spouse when trying to pick out a tree, if the “special” moments I had planned seem to flop, it is ok. It’s ok because those things are just on the sidelines of Christmas. I can make more cookies or buy them. The ornament was just a thing, after all. And a humble apology goes a long way in marriage. The traditions and moments are great, but they pale in comparison to allowing my heart to expand with anticipation for the King who is coming again. I hope you’ll take time to celebrate Advent whether by yourself, with friends or with family so that you are able to encounter the peace, the joy, the hope, and the love of Jesus in these coming weeks.
For kids / family:
Family Advent Guide by yours truly. This is a simple guide with scripture, a short reflection, and links to a hymn and an easy craft. We use this on Sunday evenings to observe Advent as a family.
For candle lighting, we use an Advent wreath that I was given as a child. You can purchase one in many places or make one with varying amounts of effort: Homemade Advent Wreath.
This is what we’ve done as a family the past several years each day of Advent. I don’t worry if we miss a day. It includes a simple scripture reading and devotional thought and comes with a beautiful pop-up tree that you hang ornaments on each day. The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent, Ann Voskamp
Mary on the Mantle from Be a Heart: New to us this year and I’m really excited about it! Each day you do a different act of kindness as Mary prepares for the arrival of Jesus.
We haven’t used this one, but I love the Jesus Storybook Bible: Jesus Storybook Bible Advent Collection.
A friend of mine loves and recommends this sweet set: The Giving Manger.
For adults / older kids / individuals:
While I keep things the same for my family, I enjoy mixing it up with what I read each year.
My husband’s personal favorite, short and to the point: Preparing for Christmas by Richard Rohr.
Last year I really enjoyed this devotional. It includes beautiful reflections with suggestions for art and music pairings: Shadow and Light: A Journey to Advent by Tsh Oxenreider.
A friend gifted this one to me for this year and I’m looking forward to it because I love this author: Into the Heart of Advent: Twenty-five conversations with Jesus by Penelope Wilcock.
A long time favorite, a collection with a wide range of philosophers, poets, theologians and writers: Watch for the Light Readings for Advent and Christmas.
I haven’t read this one, but it comes highly recommended by a trusted friend: Honest Advent by Scott Erikson.
I love to focus on and learn from Mary during Advent. I was encouraged by The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander several years ago and this year am looking forward to Mother of God Similar to Fire by Mirabai Starr.
She Reads Truth has a beautiful hardcover Advent devotional or you can download the app and read along that way.
I am also going to use the Brick House in the City devotional. It focuses on the lives of different saints: By Candlelight, By Starlight.