by Susan Cunningham
I’m not sure how it is at your house, but if there was a meter to measure anticipation levels for Christmas, it would be pretty high at the Cunninghams’! Since September Katie Grace has been playing Christmas music, although the rest of us refused to listen until after Thanksgiving. For months at random times during the day, she would come up to me and say, “I just can’t wait until Christmas!” Anticipation seems to be a natural part of the Christmas season. Advent heightens our sense of anticipation and reminds us of the One we celebrate at Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” It is a period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ. It has been celebrated by the church in some form for over a thousand years. I love participating in a tradition that has been practiced by believers for such a long period of time. It makes me feel a greater connection to the history of this redemptive story the Lord is continuing to write. Over time, Advent has grown in scope from awaiting the celebration of the birth of Christ to anticipating his glorious return.
Since the children were little, we have made advent a significant part of our Christmas traditions. We have varied our approach each year from simple devotionals to homemade crafts. One of my personal favorites was opening the gifts of God. Each morning leading up to Christmas there was a box on the breakfast table. The kids took turns opening the box. In the box was a verse telling one of the gifts God has given. We wrote the gift on a piece of paper and either hung it on the tree or taped it under a paper tree we had hanging on the wall. At the end of twenty-five days, it was beautiful to see all of the gifts we have received from God. I have added this resource to the website if you would like to use it with your family.
Sundays are the highlight of our advent celebration. On the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we invite a couple of families over to have Christmas treats, light the advent candle, read a Bible verse, and sing a song. It is a simple, precious time to celebrate Christ with others. We reserve one Sunday to listen to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb album where he sings through the entire redemptive story. This has become a favorite tradition. I have heard other families say that instead of doing a daily advent they choose to focus only on Sundays, just lighting the candle and praying together or having a special dinner.
Honestly, the heart of advent is not the activity. The activity is just a means to draw you to the goodness and wonder of Christ. Take some time to think through your family. Talk with friends. Share ideas and resources. Ask the Lord to show you how you can use advent to create an atmosphere of worship in your home this Christmas season.
[For a complete list of Advent resources compiled by Susan and other CCC staff, please visit cccbham.org/advent.]