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!).

The Wreath:

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 Devotional:

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!

6 Comments

  1. Growing up, my family and church (non-denominational) celebrated Advent. We had Advent themed coloring books when we were young and each Sunday night we would sing, light the candles, and read the scriptures for the week. At church it was integrated into our services and Sunday school classes. I’ve tried to continue the tradition on my own with limited success. Last year, I had candles and pictures to remind me. This year, I’ve been tied to school and work so my celebration has been more through hymns and carols that reflect the current week of Advent. My current church does not celebrate Advent and I miss that aspect of worship during the Christmas season.

  2. How fun! We often did things when I was growing up… different each year but something, This year I am writing my own [25 days of Christmas] on my blog for the little boys I babysit.

  3. Love this! As a Catholic, we have our calendar with the different seasons of Advent, Lent, Christmas, etc. and it provides such beautiful meaning and depth to my spiritual life! Advent is definitely one of my favorites and I loved hearing about your family’s “Advent-ure.” 😉
    At Mass last week, the priest spoke about how sometimes at Christmas we tend to want to re-create our favorite childhood memories (decorating, making cookies, get-togethers, etc.), which is fine and wonderful, but to remember that it’s so much more than that. I know I definitely get caught up in the fun preparations, so I love that Advent reminds me to be more focused on the spiritual preparation and anticipation. 🙂

  4. Hi Everly,

    yes, “advenire” is Latin for ,”to come, to arrive” so in Advent we start celebrating four weeks before Christmas that our Lord is about to come.
    In Germany everyone knows about and celebrates Advent in one way or the other, even shops and public buildings have the chaplet made of fir twigs with four red candles etc. Each of the sundays before Christmas we light an additional candle. Even Protestant churches do it here, it’s not considered a purely Catholic thing. This year however, I didn’t put up any decoration because my husband and I are living in a very small room and we are moving to our own apartment at the beginning of next month so we are more or less living out of boxes for now.
    Enjoy the Advent and feel free to write if you need some input or would like to hear some more (German) traditions.

    Wish you a happy Christmas,
    Laura

    1. Being German and Catholic, I learned only last week that the first advent wreath was put up in Hamburg in the 19th century – by the Protestant Johann Wichern! So how about that?!
      Have a happy and cozy advent with lots of candles! Martina

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