My family adopted the habit of gathering around our wreath nightly throughout Advent. We light the number of candles corresponding to the present week. My daughters, 10 and 8, take turns reading the daily Scripture passage and devotional material, and each family member shares her or his take on the message. And when we miss an evening, as we inevitably do, the girls are the ones who urge us to get back on track. The family time around the candles, the wreath, and the Story is a priceless, continuously giving gift.
As part of our Advent observation, my family volunteers with an organization that supports local families in need. In the past we have gathered and organized canned goods, categorized toys, purchased requested items, and delivered Christmas gifts and one month’s worth of food to people we’d never met previously. Several families joined us in prayer, and one hung in with us as we all did our best communicate via broken Spanish and English. Hardly ever has the Holy Spirit been more palpable, and we all felt it.
A Christmas Feast
My family aids our wait by putting up our tree on the first Sunday of Advent, but decorations are minimal. The primary color is purple, the liturgical color of Advent, throughout the four weeks prior to Christmas. We don’t sing Christmas carols, and no presents go under the tree.
After we get home from worship on Christmas Eve, we welcome the Christmas season the same way the church does. We redecorate, changing the colors on our tree from purple to white, and light the Christ candle in the center of our wreath. Next we add lights to the tree, add glittery ornaments, and proclaim Christ born, the Light of the World come. We sing hymns of Christmas joy into exhaustion and flop into bed on that most divine of nights. On Christmas Day, we awake in the morning to presents, then feast on food and quality family time the rest of the day.
“Let every heart prepare him room,” the hymn says. It’s difficult to make room for Jesus when checking things off one’s to-do list is the holiday motivator. There are many ways for a family to savor Advent. What matters is that you find your own way, and stick to it. Regularity and consistency are key to embracing new practices.