Thursday, November 28, 2013

Advent: Introduction

Skill Level: Beginner
Skills Attained: Telling the Christmas Story
Supplies:
  • Wreath
  • Candles: 3 purple, 1 rose, 1 white
  • Bible
  • Jesse Tree Ornaments (or pictures)
  • Chocolate/Candy (optional)

The Christmas season approaches, and I reflect on, "why do we celebrate this holiday?" As a Christian, even I get caught up in the decorations, Christmas cookies, and gift exchanges; oftentimes forgetting about the celebration of Jesus's birth. I have two small children, and this year my oldest is starting to comprehend the world around him. So, I want to be intentional about sharing the Christmas story with my children. Undoubtedly, this will help me refocus and recenter on Christ in the midst of the parties, shopping, and delicious food. So, over the next four weeks, I will share with you some ways you can remember and celebrate Jesus this Christmas season! 

What is Advent? 

Growing up in church, I heard about "Advent", but it didn't consist of much more than lighting a candle on a wreath each week during the church service. So, what is Advent?

Advent means "coming", and in context of the Christmas season, it refers to the coming of Jesus. 

Why do we celebrate Advent? 

We not only remember Jesus's coming to earth as a baby over 2000 years ago, but we celebrate the anticipation of his return!

God sent Jesus to this world because of His love for us. When God created man and woman, He designed us to be in a relationship with Him. However, sin entered the picture (and "sin" just means anytime you miss the mark, or aren't absolutely perfect). Since God is holy, perfect, and pure, sin cannot be in His presence. But God wants us to be with Him, so He knew there MUST be a way! Enter Jesus. Jesus came to earth as a man -- a baby, and lived a spotless, perfect life and died a sacrificial death for me...for you...so that we can be with God. So, if you simply believe Jesus is who He said He is (Lord and Savior) and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you can spend all of eternity in the presence of our loving Father that so desperately wants to be with you (Romans 10:9). So, when we stand before God, He does not see my shortcomings or mistakes; rather, He sees the perfection of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So, we celebrate Advent to remember Jesus's coming as a baby but also the promise of His return (Acts 1:6-11)! It is because of God's love for us that Jesus came, and that is why we celebrate the coming of Christmas. 

When do we celebrate Advent? 

Advent commences four Sundays prior to Christmas day and runs through December 24th. Some years Advent contains only 22 days, and other years there are as many as 28 days. In 2013, Advent begins on Sunday, December 1st, so there are 24 days in Advent this year. 

Advent may be observed once each week, but it is meant to be celebrated daily. So, over the next few weeks, I will be posting a weekly schedule that will include include daily events for the following Sunday through Saturday. There will be four posts, plus one on Christmas Day: 

How do we celebrate Advent? 

There are many ways you could observe the Advent season:
  • Read Biblical passages highlighting the story of Jesus. 
  • Incorporate fasting. 
  • Study an Advent devotional. 
  • Light an Advent wreath. 
  • Hang a Jesse Tree (which, according to Wikipedia [very reliable source;)], is a depiction of Jesus's ancestry). 

I don't want to bite off more than I can chew the first year I incorporate this tradition into my family, so I will start small and simple; easy enough for my children to understand and appreciate. I simply want my children to learn about the story of Jesus and why we celebrate Christmas. So, we will do a mish-mash of things. 

Advent Stockings
We will light an Advent wreath and read through Biblical passages that correspond to the Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree has daily ornaments (or pictures) that walk you through the story of Jesus. I may also include some devotional questions geared for adults. In honor of my German heritage, we will enjoy delicious chocolate each day from my Advent stockings I made a few years ago. 

As the years roll on, my hope is that my family looks forward to celebrating Advent and hearing about the story of Jesus and what that means in our every day lives. 

No matter what age you are, I hope you enjoy these series of posts, and that you learn a little bit more about Jesus's coming to earth as a man as an expression of God's love for us, not to condemn us but to save us. [John 3:16, 17]