As we finish up our turkey leftovers and (hopefully) bask in some fond Thanksgiving memories, the season is already turning to Advent. Each Sunday next month, many church traditions around the world will reflect during this period of waiting for the Messiah’s arrival – or “advent.”
Growing up, the Advent Wreath was a hallmark of my family’s church services during the season of Advent. With the lighting of each candle and the readings and testimonies shared during these times, my anticipation grew. When my children were young we kept the tradition of the Advent Wreath in our home. The traditional symbol and practice helped me focus on the significance of the season. It also served as a reminder to me that I’m preparing to celebrate a genuinely hope-filled holiday. Good news for ALL humankind. And that I want to be more and more ready to speak about it.
Reflecting, anticipating, preparing, waiting. During Advent, we do all these in celebration of the birth of a Savior.
Advent traditions vary all throughout Christian history and practice around the globe. Some traditions go back centuries, and some are unique to this generation and perhaps even to your family. They all can help us journey through coming this season with greater depth and understanding.
This Advent season, I’ll explore some age old traditions along with some modern celebrations. I hope these reflections offer you and your family new ways to talk about and celebrate the “good news for all people” that is the hope of Christmas.
A Traditional Activity: The Advent Wreath
Does your church or family have an Advent wreath? They are one of the most iconic symbols of Advent, featuring a circular wreath and four candles.
The ring shape represents eternity and God’s never-ending love that he proved through the earthly birth of his son. And the candles are lit – lighting one more in each of the four weeks leading up to Christmas – to signify the increasing brightness of Christ’s coming.
A Modern Twist: Advent Acts of Kindness
As you gather around the age-old Advent wreath, consider incorporating a modern tradition into the season for your family. An “Acts of Kindness” Advent checklist is a way to show the love of God to those around you all season long.
Create a list of acts of kindness that your family can perform throughout the Advent season. Things like helping a neighbor, writing an encouraging letter, baking for a shut-in, or donating to a charity can reflect Christ’s love and bring joy to those around you.
A Traditional Song: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
Between the end of the Old Testament and the coming of Jesus that starts the New Testament, 400 years passed where God’s faithful followers were waiting for the promised Messiah.
The timeless hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” captures wonderfully the sense of anticipation and preparation that Advent embodies. Its lyrics echo the longing for the coming of the Messiah and set a contemplative tone for the season. Singing this hymn together as a family can help you prepare your hearts for Advent.
A Modern Song: “The Light Will Come” by Phil Wickham
Here’s another way to try mixing the traditional with the new this Christmas season. After singing a hymn, share Phil Wickham’s “The Light Will Come” with your family.
Wickham’s contemporary Christian song may not be your typical Christmas ode, but I love how these lyrics capture that sense of anticipation in a way that’s relatable to us today. The longing for hope and love – the kind that Jesus brings. It’s a celebration, and one that fits beautifully with the themes of Advent.
What are some of your favorite Advent traditions as a family or in your church? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.