“I love the tradition, organization, and structure that comes along with the traditional church calendar.” Dara said this to me as she looked across the breakfast table at me, eyes beaming.
I’ve got a list on my phone that is titled Things Dara Likes. I add another line to the list whenever I see her eyes light up. The list includes things like hot air balloons, bridges, bubbles, a warm cup of coffee, etc. I have twenty-three things on her list that make her eyes light up. Actually, twenty-four as she looked across at me this morning and talked about how much she loves Advent.
“There’s just something about the ritual and the routine of going through this season every year,” she said. “It makes me smile.”
WHAT IS ADVENT?
I didn’t grow up in a church tradition that followed the church calendar, but Dara and I have been drawn to it over the last ten years. Her love for organization and structure balances out my, well, not-love for organization and structure.
The church calendar actually begins with a season called Advent – the four weeks that lead into Christmas.
I think of Advent like a sunrise breaking through the darkness. On the rare occasions that I am driving down 7th Street into Uptown Charlotte just before dawn I can get one of the most beautiful glimpses of the light breaking through the darkness. The first hint of light begins to create a silhouette of our city skyline. As the sun continues to climb over the horizon, details in each building begins to come into clear focus. I can see everything better as the sun illuminates our city.
Advent is a time that we choose to create anticipation toward the celebration and remembrance of the birth of Jesus. In the same way that Jesus illuminates my life, each week of Advent illuminates four things that brings light to the darkness of our lives: hope, joy, peace, and love.
WHY DO WE PARTICIPATE?
“Want to know what’s cool about Advent, Jack?” My twelve-year old looked back at me with a curious look. “We are joining millions of Christians across time in remembering and anticipating the birth of Christ.” He smiled and replied, “That’s awesome!” and then ran off to kick a ball (or his brother) in the other room.
I want my kids to know the rhythms of the Christian calendar because I want them to know that each season will come and go, but God’s faithfulness will remain with them through it all.
I want my kids to appreciate the season of Advent because it’s healthy for them to build up to Christmas with anticipation, appreciation, and understanding of how meaningful it is that Jesus came to us in flesh and blood. He showed us how to live, love, and serve others.
If you’re a parent of littles, know that we’ve been doing this since our kids were pre-schoolers. We just made it shorter and read with a lot of excitement in our voices when they were young and couldn’t quite grasp the gravity of God-becoming-man and all that. The simple practice and routine of this each year becomes something that they look forward to as they get older, and you can find your own ways to make it fun as a family.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Dara and I have been preparing for Advent (which begins Sunday, December 1st this year) this week. This is a great exercise for us as a couple because it takes thoughtfulness and time to get ourselves ready and organized to take our kids through this season.
The past few years, we used a book called Unrwapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. We would gather each night – most nights, if I’m totally honest – in the living room and read the story aloud. We bought a little Christmas tree and Dara created tiny ornaments that represented each reading. At the end of our discussion, one of the kids would take the ornament and put it on our Advent tree. Something simple like that is a great way to start if you want to incorporate something like this in your family this year.
This year, however, we are creating our own expression of Advent for our family. We would love for you (as an individual) or your family to join us in this journey. You can choose whatever way you like to reflect on this season. I have included a list of Advent resources at the end of this post.
I’m going to share bits and pieces of the Docusen journey on this blog for anyone that wants to join us – and millions of others around the world – in this season of making room in our hearts to fill with Jesus as we lead into the celebration and remembrance of his birth.
Here’s how our family is structuring our time through this season:
Each Sunday, I am going to lead our family in a devotional about that week’s Advent theme.
- Week One – Hope
- Week Two – Joy
- Week Three – Peace
- Week Four – Love
After the devotional, we will discuss the passage and then take communion together as a family. We are making tiny ornaments that represent prayers for our family, friends, churches and nonprofits that mean a lot to us, etc. and we will place them on an Advent wreath each day. Finally, we will light the candle that represents the theme of that week (click here to read more).
Each day through the week, we will follow the same schedule each evening:
- Light the candle that is represented for the week (you know, because we blew it out the night before so that we don’t catch our house on fire).
- Each of us will have read scriptures on the weekly theme through the day, and we will discuss when we come together at night.
- We will take an ornament, talk about who or what we are praying about and then pray together as a family. One of the kids will place the prayer ornament on the wreath at the end of our prayer.
- The last seven days will include a really unique expression that my friend, Vinnie, told me about this week. We will recite (or if we’re feeling really fun, we can chant them) hymns that have been used for generations in the church. These are called antiphons (click here to read more).
There’s no perfect way to lead yourself and/or your family through a season of reflection, remembrance, and anticipation. I’m including a few great resources below for you to explore what seems like may fit for you to genuinely embrace this season.
Remember, whatever you choose will be accompanying millions of others – including the Docusens – around the world that choose to center this season around the story of Jesus.
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