Growing up in a Pentecostal church, advent wasn’t a part of my vocabulary, let alone on my calendar as something to look forward to. As I grew older and heard of advent, lent, and other liturgical principle celebrations, I assumed that these celebrations were solely observed by the Roman Catholic church and were mundane religious celebrations that were not really to be practiced by Pentecostals or Evangelicals. It wasn’t until I did my own in-depth study of the history and traditions behind these liturgical principle celebrations that I discovered advent is not solely tied to the Roman Catholic church, but goes all the way back to the prophet Isaiah. I also discovered the spiritual growth that comes from observing advent.
Advent is a latin word meaning “Coming.” During the season of advent, we remember the first advent of Christ (His birth) and anticipate the second advent (The return of Christ). Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas day. For families, observing advent can be a powerful way of celebrating Christ during the Christmas season.
Focus – Celebrating advent focuses our thoughts and actions on what matters most during a time of the year where we can easily become distracted by the busyness of the season! With Christmas parties scheduled every week in the month of December and shopping to do, we can forget that we are actually supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ. Even in the midst of planning events at church and talking about the birth of Christ, what are we really focusing on spiritually? When we are so focused on having successful parties, decorating spaces and putting on productions, it makes the things we are giving our time and energy to actually become counter productive, and we send the wrong message to our family! Celebrating advent helps put focus and clarity on Jesus during a season where everything else around you may be a distraction.
Anticipation – During the Christmas season, every child is looking forward to Christmas day. They are filled with excitement and wonder of what will be wrapped in boxes under the tree. There’s nothing wrong with gifts or with kids being excited about it. While observing advent, we experience the same anticipation a child does at Christmas much like the Hebrews experienced as they anticipated the coming of the Messiah. We are reminded in the advent season that we anticipate the second coming of Christ because evil will be judged and the earth and all that’s in it will be restored! I believe it’s hard for us in the modern American church to yearn for the second coming of Christ and the ascension into heaven because we can tend to live in our own perfect heaven here on earth. We’ve got nice homes, big screen tv’s, dreams and goals to accomplish in our life time. Yet, as followers of Christ we are made whole when we are one with Him who is seated at the right hand of the Father! Celebrating advent leads us in this anticipation and allows us to lead our family in it as well!
Advent Guide – There are many great evangelical resources for families and adults to use as guides during advent. These usually involve weekly scripture reading, worship music, and discussion questions. My wife and I have done one for the past two years and they have been spiritua\lly informative and have taken us deeper in our celebration of the birth of Christ! These guides also have fun activities that you can do with your kids to make it engaging for them. My favorite is published by The Village Church in Dallas, Texas pastored by Matt Chandler. They release their 2016 guide next week.
“The Gift’s of Advent” – As parents we must always be mindful of how we are filling up our calendars. During the Christmas season this can be even more important. We send a message to our kids by the things we do and say. If we fill up our schedule with watching Christmas movies, making gingerbread houses, and spend less time talking of Jesus, whether you like it or not, that sends a message. Schedule out time each week to talk to your kids about what Christ’s advent brought. I’ve done this in our kids ministry by teaching on the “Gift’s of Advent”. With Jesus’ coming we have hope, peace, joy, and love. Spend time talking about these gifts and intentionally bringing them to the forefront of your discussion during the Christmas season. Do crafts or activities that include each gift. This is a fun way to walk your kids through the journey of advent.