Some Additional Advent Traditions
Beyond the general celebration of Advent, with the candles and reading of theme-related Scriptures each night, the rest of these suggestions are frills, but as far as I’m concerned, the more frills, the better, because frills equal tradition and opportunities to remind ourselves and our families of what God has done.
Here are some of the things our family and others add to our Advent celebrations.
We buy our tree on Thanksgiving weekend, so that we’ll have it before the first Sunday of Advent. When my children were little, we only put lights (and sometimes tinsel) on it at that point. Each night when we did our Advent reading and lit our candles, we let the kids take an ornament and put it on the tree. Whenever possible, I tried to have ornaments to fit the Scripture read that night (e.g., an apple or other fruit for the original sin, a lighthouse for “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” a miniature nativity scene on Christmas Day, angels for each day of the second week, candy canes or lambs for Shepherds’ week, etc.) This way, decorating the tree lasted all month — it’s something we looked forward to each evening — and the tree took on special meaning as it changed each night.
Some families invite single friends or couples without children to celebrate with them. Children contribute greatly to the excitement and joy of Christmas. We’re also more prone to slow down and think through our beliefs and the reality of God’s Gift when we are called on to give a simplified explanation to a child.
You might think of activities to do as a family, an individual, or to share with the church which accent your celebration of Advent and Christmas. Making special ornaments for your tree (or your church tree) is one possibility.
Families with young children often enjoy role-playing some of the Scripture readings. I’ve included in the book some original scripts that I wrote for Christmas and Advent programs at our church. You can use these as skits or simply as reader’s theater. We used them at church on various Sundays during Advent. It’s pretty easy to see which skits go with each week. Where there is more than one skit per week, we had one at the beginning of the service, one after the offering, etc.
We used to sleep under the Christmas tree — on the floor — on Christmas Eve to be like Mary and Joseph who didn’t have a comfortable bed. This took on extra meaning for me the years I was pregnant.
Our family also likes to have our big celebration — opening gifts, the big Christmas dinner, and a birthday cake for Jesus — on Christmas Eve. On Christmas, we used to invite others to join us for caroling in our community: At convalescent homes, hospitals, for people we knew who were shut-in, and places where public servants (such as police officers, firemen, and bus drivers) were giving up their Christmas to serve the community. This allowed us to focus on giving on Christmas Day.
Many people find that sharing the Lord’s Supper together becomes a natural, joyful part of their Advent celebration. After all, we aren’t only commemorating Jesus’ birth; we find the most important focus in His death and resurrection … and we anticipate His second advent.
Other families extend their Christmas celebration ’til twelve days after Christmas. Epiphany is January 6 (“the twelfth day of Christmas”), and in many traditions, gifts are held until this day to symbolize the gifts the magi brought to Jesus, or are spread out throughout the twelve days (as in the famous song).
Advent should be a special time of giving to the needy among us. While we need to always remember the poor, we should especially remember during Advent that
•Jesus was born in a stable, the stepson of a carpenter.
•Jesus wandered on this earth like a stranger among us.
•Jesus said that He didn’t have a place to lay His head.
In Celebrating Advent, you’ll find three very special opportunities to share God’s love through Jesus with those who are in need. I’ve chosen these particular projects because they have the ability to capture your children’s imaginations. You may have other favorites. If so, write and tell me. I may include them in future editions of the book.
To order Celebrating Advent, click on the link below. (Please note that this is a special introductory price that will only be in effect until December 1st.)
May your celebration of Jesus guide your heart in longing for His presence in your life each and every day.