When I was a kid I didn’t really understand what the lighting of the candles was each week leading up until Christmas. I only saw it in much the same way that I saw my waxy chocolate calendar – as a countdown to presents! Those little numbered cardboard doors opened each day just meant we were one day closer. You could taste the anticipation! (If only it tasted like actual chocolate…)
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the purpose of advent. Advent, which is a term meaning ‘coming’ is a time to anticipate the coming of our Lord to this earth. I learned that it was a time of preparing and a time of contemplation. I learned that it’s a time of readying our heart before the Lord for the celebration of the arrival of His Son, Jesus, to this earth. It’s a time to refocus and live out our faith in a time where culture teaches that it’s often about glitz and glitter and stuff and more. It’s a time to set apart, to clear away all that entangles, and open a space in our heart for what this season is really all about.
What I have loved most about practicing advent is the intentionality of it. When you take time each day to read scripture, to study the events leading up to Jesus birth, to pray and yes, even to light the candles it changes the whole dynamic of the season.
For us, it becomes less about a count down to presents and more about a slow building of joy in our hearts to celebrate the miraculous birth. It becomes less a time of stress and performance and having all of the baked things baked, and reminds us every single day (because we need reminding every. single. day) that it’s not about all of that, but about a child born to die. For us. And when that becomes the focus? Well, let’s just say it changes things more than a little.
I’ve also realized not to overcomplicate things that are meant to uncomplicate.
We can worry about getting just the right advent readings or just the right devotional. We can feel like the one with poetry and pretty pictures is better than the one that’s just scripture. We can get caught up in having the right candles to light and the prettiest display of what is so important to us.
But that kind of goes against the whole dealio.
If we take our cue from a young mama and her betrothed, who birthed the Son of God in a barn? Well, we’d realize we could probably worry less about how we do it and just get on with the doing of it!
Not sure how to start? Here’s what we do. Go online and find some readings for each day. There are about a gazillion options and you can’t go wrong with any of them that include scripture.
Find 5 candles and plunk ’em somewhere you’ll remember to light them.
And then do it!
Read. Pray. Light.
It’s really that easy and I just know it will only be good.
My kids are a bit bigger this year so I’ve added a devotional only because they can sit still for longer. It has discussion questions to lead us in conversation following dinner, which I love because I don’t have to think of them. And I plunked my candles in jars I already have. That’s how fancy we’ve gotten. It doesn’t take a lot. Mostly time and a desire in your heart and home to focus this season on the birth of a King.
How do you do advent? If you do? I’d love to know.