Friday, December 1, 2017

8 Ideas for Keeping Christ in Advent

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At the church I attended when I was really little, there was little celebration in the way of holidays with the exception of the Christmas pageant and something mentioned in Sunday School.  I still remember my line from the pageant the year before I was in the angel choir.    I'll be a little light too, and quietly shine the way.  I'll do my part, with all my heart, to shine for Him each day.

I didn't realize until just a few years ago that Advent is NOT a celebration, but a longing.  A yearning for Christ to appear.  I have always loved the song "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel".  The tune is so haunting, so mournful.  I always thought after I was a teenager the Christmas season began on the first Sunday of Advent and ended on Christmas Day, but Advent is the time of preparation for the Christ Child.

Advent and Lent have a lot of similarities.  When observed the way that has been done traditionally, there's a lot of focus on what is about to come.

But how in this busy world do we take time out from Christmas parties, shopping, and decorating to focus our hearts?

Here are a few ideas.

1.  Have a Jesse Tree.  If you have younger children, check out Jen Frost's book Our Family's Jesse Tree which includes instructions to make a tree out of paper or felt.  If you don't have children, check out the book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp.

2.  I've seen this idea floating around social media -- have a reverse Advent calendar.  Take a box and each day of Advent put a food item in it.  Then at Christmas leave it at the house of a needy family or take it to a food pantry.  As you are adding the food each day, you could stop and reflect on how Mary and Joseph were traveling and likely hungry as they traveled to Bethlehem.

3.  Have a person you pray for each day of Advent.   You may want to keep this secret or you may wish to tell the person, especially if they are your pastor -- maybe even giving him a card on Christmas Day telling him about you keeping him in prayer.

4.  Have an Advent wreath in your home.   Be it bought or one you make, there are all kinds of advent wreaths out there.  It's a wonderful way to reflect during this season.

5.  Give something up for Advent.  Because Advent is very similar to Lent, this could be a wonderful way to remember the sacrifice that Christ gave both in His death, but also in His birth. If He hadn't been born, there wouldn't have been a Resurrection.

6.  Not put your Christmas tree up until Christmas eve.  I know a family who doesn't put their tree up until Christmas eve.  (From what I hear, they get a great deal on it at the last minute!)  They take it down on January 7.  On Epiphany (January 6) they have a huge Christmas party where they invite most of their church.  Because this celebration is in January, after most people have finished their busy time of year, it's a wonderful "last" celebration of the season for many people and most people are free to join in this celebration.

7.  Do all your Christmas shopping early.  Don't shop or wrap gifts during Advent so you can focus on the season.

8. Get your children their own nativity.  Children respond greatly to the idea that Jesus was once a baby.  In fact, a few years ago I purchased the Fisher Price Little People Nativity for the toddler son of friends because that little boy was so fascinated by Baby Jesus.  This little boy told people, "Nativities should be out all year long."  One idea to use a nativity to help observe advent is having the shepherds and wise men move closer to the set as Advent progresses -- and not putting Baby Jesus in the set until Christmas morning!

However you choose to observe Advent this year, I hope it is a time of spiritual refreshing for you as you look forward to Christmas!

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