By Dawn Heckert
The following story is provided by our INCM/CPC Partner David C. Cook.
My husband tells the same joke every time I mention the word “Advent”: “Why do we need to add a vent? Is the room too hot or too cold?” Many families find the word mystifying.
And many families get their first reminders about Christmas when stores start decorating for the holiday-sometimes as early as October. Then the advertisements arrive in the mail with beautiful, slick pages featuring the latest technology, toys, and items that to make our loved ones feel spoiled. In November, radio stations begin to play Christmas music around the clock, and television shows feed the holiday frenzy to buy, buy, buy.
But where does Advent fit into the picture the commercial world sells us? How do we help families connect their hearts to the season of Advent? First, offer a simple explanation to help define the season that leads to the most familiar day of the year. The word Advent derives from the Latin word adventur, which means “arrival.” The season starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and leads us to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. While Christmas is marked by many colors, Advent is typically marked by purple, which represents royalty and celebrates the coming of the King.
But Advent doesn’t have to be confined to a few weeks. It really starts at the beginning of time and spans the years as it tells us how much God loves His children and leads up to the arrival of His Son.
Families can mark the Advent season in many different ways. The following list of ideas isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a jumping-off point to make this Advent season a richer, fuller experience. These activities can prepare our families for the story of Christ’s birth.
Advent Wreath: Advent wreaths can be purchased or made as a family project. Place four candles around the wreath: three purple and one pink. Then place one white candle in the center. Light the candles in the following order for the first three weeks, one per week: purple, purple, pink. On the final week, light the last purple candle as well as the white candle in the center. Advent Calendar: This calendar is a great way to mark each day of Advent. Families can make their own calendars with special Scriptures, treats, or family projects, or they can buy premade calendars.
The Advent Jesse Tree: Creating Jesse Tree ornaments and participating in daily devotions will lead your family in anticipation of Christmas. The book The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Meador Lambert is a great resource for this activity. It contains 25 devotionals for adults and 25 devotionals for children. Count Down in Song: Invite each family member to take turns suggesting Christmas songs, and then use them as morning wake-up calls or dinner music. Take time to focus on the words in the songs and how they speak about the arrival of Christ. Read, Read, Read: This year, take time to select not only devotional passages to share with your family but also several great Christmas books. Allow family members to take turn reading their favorites.
Make It a Mission: Advent is a wonderful time to focus on the mission Christ had for His church. Make a point to get involved in mission projects. Organize your own outreach in your neighborhood by handing out a favorite Christmas treat. Offer to be part of a collection organization needing gifts or winter coats. Participate in a mitten/glove tree mission for local children or those in homeless shelters.
Advent isn’t about our decorations or purchases. It’s about anticipation-about preparing ourselves to hear, again or for the first time, the wonderful story of how God sent His Son. May this Advent find you anticipating hearing the good news in a new way.
Dawn Heckert is the Director of New Generations Ministry at Christ Church Anglican in Overland Park, KS. An energetic and emerging voice in children’s and family ministry, Heckert earned her B.A. in Elementary Education from Ottawa University and her M.A. in Education from Mid-America Nazarene College. She began her ministry in 1997 as a volunteer with senior high youth. Over the past eleven years, God has used her passion, enthusiasm and creativity to revolutionize the Children’s & Youth Ministry at Christ Church Anglican in Overland Park, Kansas. She recently joined with David C. Cook as an ambassador, encouraging a fresh and practical look into traditional curriculum. Dawn is married and has two children.