While we look forward to spending time with friends and family during the Christmas season, the sad truth is this can be the most stressful time of year. Shopping, baking, gift giving, and a full social calendar all create a hectic schedule — taking us away from each other as well as what should be the focus of the season: the birth of Christ and what He means to us.
Honoring the advent season together as a family is one way to keep the season Christ-centered. Follow these 3 simple steps to make the advent celebration a part of your holiday tradition:
1. Make a Wreath
The key here is simplicity and using what you have. If you have the time to go all out and create something Pinterest worthy — great! But that doesn’t have to be your goal. Your wreath can be very simple, using materials collected at home. Or if you just wish to just assemble candles on the coffee table, that is fine, too. The objective here is not perfection, but time spent together focusing on the reason for the season.
You will need:
5 candles: one for each week of advent and one to commemorate the baby Jesus. Traditionally three purple candles, one pink, and one white candle are used. In doing my own research on advent and what the colors symbolize, I found a range of different meanings. Here are a few:
Purple is the color of royalty and can be used to symbolize the waiting and anticipation of Christ.
Pink symbolizes joy as we wait for Christ's arrival.
White is a picture of Christ's sinlessness and our sins being washed white as snow.
I would encourage you not to stress out too much about the color of the candles. Advent candles can be purchased as a set, but if you can't find them, don't allow that to prevent you from improvising with what you have. My husband and I actually just use plain white tea lights set in glass jelly jars.
You will also need:
A “wreath” of some sort: This can be made of artificial greenery, but feel free to get creative. We simply assemble our jar candles on a pewter tray and add a few sprigs of greenery. This “wreath” sits out on our kitchen table throughout the season.
2. Select your Readings
You can choose your own, or browse the internet for a list of suggested readings. Some selected passages center specifically around the Christmas story, while others focus on waiting for Christ and certain aspects of His character such as Christ our shepherd, the forgiveness He offers, etc. Some of our favorite readings are listed in the schedule below.
3. Schedule Your Devotional
Most suggested reading schedules feature one passage per day. If this doesn’t work for your family situation, consider a weekly reading instead. The latter is what my husband and I chose, setting aside Sunday night to take turns reading through the verses. Alternatively some families choose to do the reading over mealtime. Be flexible. The point is to connect to the Lord and to each other.
If you miss a session, reschedule or double up on the next one. Look for ways to make the devotional personal to you and your family. You may choose to start with prayer or a Christmas story.
(Note: If you have small children and are able to locate some of the vintage Arch Christian children’s books they have some wonderful selections for the Advent season. The Innkeeper's Daughter is one of my favorites).
Then, light the candle, choose one person to read the Bible verses or divide the verses up amongst those present. Close with a short prayer of dedication and a Christmas carol, if you choose. If you have additional time, consider having each person share what the verses mean to you personally or how they can help to set the focus for the next day or upcoming week.
Here are some of our favorite passages to read throughout advent along with the candles to be lit, if you are using the traditional colors:
- Week One — Nov 30-Dec 6 (light a purple candle): Isaiah 40:1-11
- Week Two — Dec 7-13 (light the first and second purple candle): Luke 1:68-79
- Week Three — Dec 14-20 (light the first and second purple candle, then light the pink candle): Zephaniah 3:14-20
- Week Four — Dec 21-23 (light the first two purple candles, the pink candle, and a purple candle): Luke 1:26-38
- Christmas Eve or Christmas Day — Dec 24-25 (light all candles including the white one representing the birth of Christ): Luke 2:1-20
What are some ways you seek to keep the Christmas season simple and Christ-centered?
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