For the sixth year now our family is celebrating Advent. We have found this practice to be a powerful means of instilling Christian faith into our kids, and it is now a firmly rooted family tradition.
Beginning this past Sunday we gather around the Advent wreath as many nights as possible for the four weeks leading up to Christmas. We’ve not done very well at establishing a consistent family devotion throughout the year, but Advent is now a foundation stone for our family’s spiritual life. The experience is something we look forward to through the whole year.
The daily devotion involves scripture reading, prayer and singing a Christmas carol. Each week focuses on a theme:
- Love and
Oh, and there’s fire! That is probably the most important element, at least in my family. The lighting of the candle is the only time that Zion and Mary are allowed to use a match. It’s a highlight!
I’ve used a short and basic little book to guide the devotion: Catherine Brandt’s We Light The Candles: Devotions Related Family Use of the Advent Wreath. There are more complicated ones, but I like the simplicity of this Brandt’s.
The best thing I’ve read on Advent in understanding its history and its spirituality has been Robert Webber’s chapter in his book Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year.
One other practice we do is what we all the "Advent Challenge." This involves a challenge to do something during Advent related to Scripture. This year the kids were challenged to read a passage of Scripture every day through Advent. We chose for them to read the Gospel of Mark. They only have to read one story per day. Our motto is "Bible before breakfast or Bible before bed." Then during the Advent time we let them share what they read that day from the Bible. If they complete the challenge there is a reward. Often it is a all expense paid trip to a local movie theater for a movie. It works! Mary has said after the first week of reading Mark "I love the Bible!" Yes! Winning!
It's not too late to jump into celebrating Advent.