Advent is a complicated season of the Christian church; consequently, it’s taken many twists and turns in both meaning and practice. This blog takes a brief look at Advent’s history and provides some suggestions on how you and/or your family can celebrate Advent 2018.
ADVENT: A TIME OF PREPARATION
Advent has always been celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, but often ignored by Protestant denominations; however, in recent years many Protestant churches also acknowledge this season of preparation. One tradition is lighting Advent candles during the four Sundays prior to Christmas.
There are many views about when and how Advent began. Some people credit it as far back as the disciple Peter, but that is unlikely. We do know Advent was recognized before 567 AD because Advent was mentioned in the Council of Tours of 567.
Bishop Perpetuus initiated fasting prior to Christmas sometime during the 5th century. This fasting began on November 11. However, just like Advent, the practice of fasting during this season changed over time and fasting is rarely a part of Advent today.
Click here for an interesting article about Advent and fasting.
Advent is derived from the Latin word adventus meaning coming. Originally this celebration wasn’t tied to Christmas as much as preparation for the baptism of new Christians and getting ready for Epiphany, which also has a complicated history.
Primarily Epiphany focuses on the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Three Wise Men coming to visit Jesus. (Matthew 2) For forty days Christians would fast and pray. Some churches also put emphasis on the baptism of Jesus during this time.
During the 6th century, the Roman Christians began recognizing Advent as a time to prepare for the coming of Christ, but they were looking more at the second coming. The Middle Ages brought about our modern way of celebrating Advent, which focuses on the first coming of Jesus.
Currently, we recognize Advent’s beginning four Sundays prior to Christmas, therefore this year we begin on December 2, 2018!
Advent calendars for children are a common practice. However, we must remember that this season isn’t just for the young. As adults, we need to focus on the importance of Christmas regarding our faith, therefore most of the suggestions below work for both children and adults. So pick and choose what fits your schedule and interest. Of course, you may have some ideas of your own, which I encourage you to share in the comment section.
It is also important to note that Advent is a man-made tradition; therefore we can make it our own as we prepare for the coming of Jesus.
ADVENT: WEEK ONE: FOCUS ON PREPARING SELF FOR THE HOLIDAY
Describe the meaning of Christmas to a Martian.
What does a Martian think we are celebrating when he lands in the USA during the month of December?
Discuss with your study group, friends, or family (or if doing this alone make notes) how to explain Christmas to this visitor from another planet.
Reflect on what you discovered and accordingly make a list of some changes for this year that put an emphasis on the real meaning of Christmas.
This is a great activity to do with your children.
Take a temporary vow of silence and listen to Christmas music during your daily routine.
Advent is an excellent time to clear our minds and quiet the chaos of the holiday season. For twenty-four hours (or for as long as you can) take a vow of silence.
Replace TV, the Internet, social media, and the cell phone with Christmas music. Let the melodies and lyrics infiltrate the mind, heart, and soul. The result is a strengthened faith and an uplifted mood.
There are benefits to silence. It makes you more aware of your surroundings, taps into creativity, and improves your listening skills. All excellent reasons to give silence a try.
ADVENT: WEEK TWO: FOCUS ON THE PEOPLE
Read by yourself or with a group of friends or your family the following: Matthew 1: 16-25, 2: 1-23 and Luke 1: 1-80, 2: 1-39
Make a list of all the people found in these Scriptures and answer the following questions:
Was this person friend or foe of Jesus?
What part did this person play in Jesus’ birth?
How did his or her actions impact the life of Jesus?
Advent is a time to realize how these people were part of God’s plan. Discuss or reflect on how they impact our lives as Christians today.
Another way to help learn about the Christmas story and all the characters is to take this fun quiz. It is beneficial to all, however, children will particularly like this exercise.
ADVENT: WEEK THREE: FOCUS ON THE SYMBOLS
Read: Matthew 2: 1-2 and 9-10
Click here to read an interesting article and learn about this guiding light:
Go to YouTube and key in Star of Wonder or We Three Kings and listen to the music, more importantly, focus on the words.
After learning about the meaning, make stars with your children and hang them on the tree or bake star cookies while discussing what you just read about this miraculous symbol.
As you admire your Christmas tree, read about why we have them in our houses during the Christmas season by clicking here and here for some interesting facts about Christmas trees.
Do Christmas acrostics with your kids or with a group of friends.
Example Word: JOY
Jesus is my Savior
Occupy my heart
Yearning for Your love
Suggestions: Peace, Love, Jesus, Frankincense, Myrrh, Gold, Star, Wise Men, Angels, Shepherds, Staff, Manger, Inn, Tree, etc.
Read about the history of the candy cane by clicking here. Then eat a candy cane together with friends or your children or add candy canes to your tree decorations. While decorating discuss all the different meanings that we contribute to this sweet treat.
ADVENT: WEEK FOUR: FOCUS ON THE PROPHECIES
Christmas is close, therefore, this week’s Advent suggestions don’t take as much time.
Begin by reading the following Scriptures
Genesis 1:1 John 1: 1-16
Read the following OT prophecies and the fulfillment in the NT:
Isaiah 40:30 Matthew 3: 1-3
Malachi 4:5 Matthew 11: 12-14
Micah 5:2 Matthew 2: 1-6
Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1: 18-25
Meditate on the miraculous ways of God and how the story of redemption unfolds through time.
Hope these suggestions add meaning to your holiday this year. If you enjoyed this article, please share with others who may benefit. If you are new to the site, scroll to the top or click on the heart and subscribe to receive my email notifications. I never share emails and I don’t inundate you with messages. Also, you will receive a free gift Click Refresh on Prayer!
As mentioned above, if you have some Advent traditions, please share in the comment section below.
Last year we looked at Christmas through carols. If you want to take a look, click here.
Blessings until next time.