I grew up in evangelical churches that feared ritual. We shouldn't recite set prayers, read liturgy or take communion weekly or it will become rote and routine and will lose its meaning was the excuse. But I have found that many from my generation now yearn for the traditions that were rejected by our parents.
Advent is one of those traditions of the church my family is choosing to celebrate to draw us back into the rhythm of God's larger story in the world.
The word Advent means "coming," which refers to the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, but also foreshadows His promised return to earth.
Advent has a way of eliciting a feeling of wonder. Last year was the first year we celebrated Advent before Christmas and a sense of awe and anticipation built as we neared the day of Christ's birth. Though this is only our second year observing Advent, I want to share what my family is planning to do in case it is something you would like to join us in doing this year. Last year, we gathered the following:
1. The Advent Book
2. An Advent Wreath
3. An Advent Calendar
3. A Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set
This year, Advent begins Sunday, November 29, and after dinner each day we plan to light a candle (adding a candle each week), read a page from The Advent Book (a really beautiful book where kids can open doors each day), retell the Christmas story from the beginning and add a piece to the story on the calendar. A friend of mine also does cookies and hot cocoa each night as they read. I pulled out the toy nativity recently and have already heard my 3-year-old telling his 1-year-old sister the story of "the star and baby Jesus" (which also now includes a helicopter).
But although I know my children will enjoy this season and I hope they will grow in their understanding of God incarnate, selfishly, I am looking forward to what a daily routine of telling the story together as a family is going to do for my own heart.
Distracted, my mind wanders during Bible study. Weary, I would rather sleep than spend time in prayer. Discontented, I focus on the what if's and if only's instead of on what is and all the gifts that I enjoy at His hand.
And I miss the magic.
Like The Polar Express (which my son now hands me to read and says, "Let's read the one that makes you cry"), I long to hear the sweet melody of the Christmas bells that have become silent to me as I've grown older and farther removed from my childhood belief in magic and mystery.
I want to be in awe again.
This Advent, I am longing for Jesus to draw me into the magical story of His birth in a way that reignites my love for Him and reawakens a childlike faith in the impossible.
What kind of traditions do you do with your family to focus on Jesus during the Christmas season? If you have celebrated Advent before, I'd love to hear more about your experience in the comments.
Check out my latest series, 7 Days of Soul Rest
Check out my friend Roxanne's blog for some really great ideas for Advent (some of these posts are from when they were living in Africa, so my overseas friends can get some ideas as well)
Treasuring God in Our Traditions, by Noel Piper
Advent Apps for your phone on YouVersion
Linking up with Literacy Musing Mondays and Playdates with God and Velvet Ashes