The Christmas season is a very exciting time, especially in the church. We go all out decorating and planning. We have special songs for the season and we truly love being together and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
We love it so much, we start early, right? Well, kind of. You may have heard of Advent in reference to calendars – sometimes full of chocolate! But it means more than just counting down the days until Christmas.
What is Advent?
In the Christian church, Advent means “coming.” As Christians, we spend time preparing for the arrival of Jesus. Many Advent calendars start on December 1st and run through the 24th. The church season of Advent is a little different.
There are four Sundays in Advent, ending on the last Sunday before Christmas Day. In some years, like this one, that means the first Sunday of Advent is in November. In other years this may mean that the Fourth Sunday in Advent is also Christmas Eve.
What Are The Different Advent Candles?
Many churches have an Advent Wreath set up during this season. A lot of families have one at home too. Each Sunday, you light a candle, until you eventually light all four. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a fifth candle – referred to as the Christ Candle – is lit as well.
The four candles around the outside of the wreath each symbolize something different. There are traditionally three purple candles, one pink one, and one white one. These colors are also rich with tradition. Purple is the color of royalty and Jesus is our King. Pink, which is used for the third candle, represents Joy and the shift from repentance towards celebration. And the Christ Candle is usually white, and a bit thicker, symbolizing victory.
The candles, which are listed in order of how they are to be lit, represent different things.
- The First Sunday – Hope
- The Second Sunday – Love
- The Third Sunday – Joy
- The Fourth Sunday – Peace
How to Celebrate Advent
There are several ways you can observe or celebrate Advent with your family or small group.
Make an Advent Wreath. You can buy a wreath, or the parts to make one. Or you can make your own. You don’t need anything fancy – just some candles to light, or battery-operated ones if you’re worried about little hands knocking them over.
Read your Bible. There are many reading plans to prepare for Christmas, and one popular one is to read the Book of Luke. Luke has 24 chapters, one for each day. You can also choose a specific Advent study. (We’re doing one online!)
Make a Jesse Tree. Similar to an advent calendar, the Jesse Tree has you add an ornament to the tree each day. Each ornament corresponds with a scripture from the story of Israel’s history. Through the Old Testament verses, you can learn about Jesus’ family history, lineage, prophecies, and the first Nativity story. You can make your own ornaments or buy some.
Make a prayer chain. Similar to the paper chain countdowns for big trips or birthday surprises, make one for advent. Choose 24 people or things you want to pray for and write them each on a strip of paper. String them together and then each day, take one down and pray for that person or thing as a family.
You may be thinking that this isn’t the year to add another thing to your family traditions or busy calendar. But maybe it really is the year for that. If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s to focus on spending more time doing less. More time with family, less outside busyness. More time with Jesus, less time worrying about the state of the world. More time with our eyes focused towards heaven, more time preparing for Jesus’s arrival.