Advent. Behold, the Lord, the Ruler, is come.
Advent is a threefold celebration of the birth of Jesus, His second coming, and His presence in our lives now.
It started with people going hungry to purify themselves for holy living. A fast, we call it, and such a fast was ordered by the Council of Saragossa in A.D. 381. For three weeks before Epiphany (a feast in January that commemorates the divine revelation of Jesus to the gentile Magi), the people were to prepare themselves by fasting and prayer. The tradition spread to France in A.D. 581 by decree of the Council of Macon, and to Rome and beyond thereafter. Gregory the First refined the season to its present form in about 600 when he declared that it should start the fourth Sunday before Christmas.
Fasting is no longer a part of Advent in most homes and churches (though it wouldn't be a bad idea). For us it means taking a few minutes each day, for the three or four weeks before Christmas, to center our thoughts on Truth Incarnate lying in a feeding trough in Bethlehem. It's a time of worship, a time of reflection, a time of focus, and a time of family communion. In the midst of December's commotion and stress, Advent is a few moments to stop, catch your breath, and renew your strength from the only One who can provide true strength. -Arnold Ytreeide.
Does your family celebrate Advent? It is one of our family's favorite things about December.
We take a few minutes each night before the children go to bed and we read from an Advent book and pray. We've been doing this for more than 10 years and it has become a very special tradition. We have found Arnold Ytreeide's books to be a wonderful tool for Advent. We set aside a few minutes to read the story and devotional for that day, pray, sing a favorite Christmas song (one about our Lord), and we have a time of family sharing. This year we are adding an Advent wreath to our time and the children will take turns lighting the candles.
Here is how Lisa Whelchel suggests explaining Advent to your children. "It's exciting to have someone special come visit, isn't it? You clean the house, make special meals, and maybe even count the days. Well, that is what Advent is all about. The word advent means to come and it refers to Jesus' coming to earth as a baby. The season of Advent is all about looking forward to celebrating the day when our almighty God stepped into history as a human being. In days past, Christians would prepare their hearts to celebrate the arrival of God's Son by tidying up their lives a bit. They would remember the poor and perhaps fast. They understood that when the holiday festivities began there would be plenty of time to enjoy delicious food and exchange gifts. But it was important to begin the reception by focusing on the reason for the party. Of course this is also a good time to look inside ourselves and see if there is anything that needs a little cleaning up as we anticipate the arrival of Jesus' second coming."
If you haven't ever before celebrated Advent may I encourage you to start this year? God will richly bless your family as you prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ!
Here are the books we have read, and loved, during Advent. We have read each of these titles several times and we never get tired of them. They are wonderful!