In which the Pleasant family discovers Advent
My mother was in her chair in the living room, laptop on her lap and stacks of books at her feet when she looked up at me with an expression of desperation.
“I’m too Protestant for this!” she cried.
This year, for the first time, my family is celebrating Advent. My mother comes from a Protestant background in which she never learned about Advent and my father, though raised in the Catholic Church, is only just learning about Advent himself. We’re all beginning our Advent education together and I am being “punny” and calling it our “Advent-ure.” (I’m afraid my family is already quite tired of that word by now…)
It wasn’t until reading Ann Voskamp’s blog that I learned the true meaning of Advent, and when my mother also became highly interested, we decided to launch our own Advent traditions this year. We spent much of last month preparing and gathering a lot of resources…too many, actually! We had to simplify our curriculum in order to keep things basic and stress-free. As you can tell by my mother’s (jesting) words, we felt a little overwhelmed at first, but by cutting out a few “good things,” we have been able to truly enjoy this learning experience!
You see, whether you are Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or any other denomination of the Christian church, I would like to invite you to learn about Advent. “Advent” means “coming.” The season of Advent is meant to prepare us for Christmas by purposely anticipating His coming.
And oh sisters, in the mere week that we’ve been practicing Advent, it has brought such an abundance of blessings. I would like to share a few things that we’re doing as a family to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ first coming (figuratively on Christmas Day) and second coming (literally, as we still await that blessed day!).
An Advent wreath can come in any shape or size, but the idea is that we light the candles of the wreath each night to keep our focus on “the Father of lights” (James 1:17) and to wrap up each day with thoughts of Christ, not just the holidays. My parents bought us the beautiful “From the Cradle to the Cross Wreath” handcrafted by Caleb Voskamp, but anything that holds candles and your attention will do.
The purpose of Advent, as I’ve said, is to keep our focus on Jesus during the crazy bustle of the holidays and how could we do that without hearing from Him? Time in Scripture is vital (during any season!) so finding an Advent devotional is helpful. We’re using A Jesse Tree Advent Celebration, a free, printable devotional (also by Voskamp) — but of course, Advent is far older than blogs and printers. Feel free to use anything else you might like, including a plan to read through one or all of the Gospels. We printed the devotional and had it bound at a copy store and so far, I would recommend it very highly. We’ve also been using The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas. I love both books!
The Jesse Tree:
The resources we are using incorporate the Jesse Tree into Advent. The Tree of Jesse is Jesus’ family tree. The devotionals are taking us through Jesus’ lineage, starting at Adam and Eve and hitting many of the stories from the Old Testament which point to Christ’s first coming. To represent this, we brought a tree branch into the house and are decorating it, day-by-day, with symbols for each story we read. This is especially fun for the younger children, but really has helped each of us keep our attention on God’s magnificent, loving plan.
A little time:
The biggest thing, other than Christ Himself, that is making this whole “Advent-ure” work for us is the time we’ve dedicated to it. Whoever is available gathers for devotions morning and night. My mother reads, the children journal, we talk, we pray, we light the candles. It has really been a sweet season already. Saying “no” to a few other things has paid off in big ways.
Do you recognize/celebrate Advent? Do you have any special Advent traditions? Tell us about your Advent-ure!