Advent calendars are all the rage this Christmas season. You can find one in any store you visit. No matter what you are interested in: LEGO, holiday socks, exotic cheeses, bath bombs, wine, chocolates, or even fidget poppers, you can countdown from December 1 to Christmas with a calendar that has surprises behind little doors.
Growing up, my understanding of Advent was that at church, on Sunday mornings in December, popular families in the church were asked to march down the main aisle with a candle to light the Advent candle on the stage. I didn’t really understand why we did that but always wished my family could be the one chosen to light the candle.
So, really, what is Advent? A calendar or a candle? According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, Advent is 3 different things: 1) The period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting 2) the coming of Christ at the incarnation or the second coming 3) not capitalized it means a coming into being or use. So really, it technically is neither a calendar or a candle!
According to Christianity.com:
the word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming”, which is a translation of the Greek word Parousia. Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries of Spain and Gaul, Advent was a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany…during this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally there was little connection between Advent and Christmas. It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.Christianity.com
Since those early days of Advent, many denominations of Christianity have chosen to celebrate Advent similarly to Lent, a somber time of penitence and preparing our hearts for something ahead. For Christians, the 2nd coming of Christ is an important part of Advent as we celebrate He did come as a baby but He is coming back as a King!
When we become a mom, we get the huge honor of deciding what Christmas traditions we want to have in our homes. We take some ideas from our own families, and we can create new traditions together with our kids. I am always looking to other moms to get great ideas they are doing, and my first experience with Advent was just that. I was pregnant with our first child when some moms invited me to an Advent Christmas ornament exchange. Each mom was assigned one of the 25 ornaments based on the story of Jesus, and we made 25 of that one ornament and brought it with us, and then we each got to take home 25 different ornaments. For many years, we read a devotional related to each ornament with our kids and placed that ornament on a special tree.
Moms, Christmas is a busy season and it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the “good” ideas of things there are to do. Buying all the gifts, wrapping all the gifts, for family, friends and teachers alone is a lot. Add on parties, Elf on the Shelf, Christmas train rides, Santa visits, looking at Christmas lights on houses, and Christmas movies, and it is no wonder we have to start preparing in October each year! So when I pass Advent calendars in the store that have nothing to do with Christ, it is an easy pass for me, because I sometimes feel like I am swimming in a season of things not focused on Christ, and I am trying to do all I can to bring my kids’ focus back to Jesus. Not because the calendars are bad, they look super fun just like Elf on the Shelf, and all the other fun things to do this season. The challenge, mommas, is to sort through all this and choose what is BEST for your family this season.
The BEST for our families is pointing them to Christ during this season in every way we can. I encourage you to find ONE thing that you can intentionally do with your family for the 24 days leading up to Christmas this year to focus your heart not only on the 1st coming of Jesus, but also on His 2nd coming and preparing our hearts for that. There are many ideas for how to do this, but these are a few of my favorite:
The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: An Interactive Family Celebration of Advent by Ann Voskamp
The Shepherd on The Search Advent Activity Book Set by Josh Helms
The Christmas Star from Afar by Natalie Ard
I hope and pray that this Advent season you make space for the peace, hope, and joy of Jesus in your home!