During Advent, Christians of all denominations wait in anticipation for the Messiah, preparing their hearts for Jesus’ arrival, known as Christmas. The dates of Advent begin four Sundays before Christmas.
Though it is a time of expectation for Christ’s coming, it is also a reminder of the anticipation Christians have for Christ’s return to consummate his glory.
The four Sundays of Advent balance the remembrance of Christ’s birth and the hope of his second coming. The first two look forward as the second two look back, with appropriate scripture from the Old and New Testaments.
To help you understand the meaning behind Advent, here are seven Advent traditions for you and your family to use as a starting point. If you have other traditions, be sure to add those in as well.
One of the best-known traditions of the Advent season is to add an Advent wreath to your home. An Advent wreath consists of a wreath with four candles — three purple and one pink. The candles represent hope, joy, faith and peace, while the evergreen wreath represents God’s everlasting love.
As a family, you can light the candles on the appropriate Sundays and read corresponding scripture.
A great way to count down the days until Christmas is with an Advent calendar. Beginning on Dec. 1, each day as a family, you can open a little door on the calendar to reveal a Bible verse or message about the coming of Christ.
Many calendars now even include a little gift, which are the ones in the more secular realm of the season. Either way, it’s a great visual reminder to count down the days until Christmas!
Dec. 8 marks the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During this observed holy day of obligation, Catholics attend Mass. It celebrates Mary’s conception without sin. Even though it occurs during Advent, it serves as a time to remember the conception of Mary in her mother, St. Anne.
The teaching states that Mary was born without sin, so she could give birth to Christ, who has no sin.
Advent is full of prayers and hymns that reflect on the meaning of the season. The Christmas Novena is among these. You can either add this prayer to your family’s prayers or put it in place of your family’s prayers.
Additionally, you can say the O Antiphons each night starting eight days before Christmas. Each night, your family can ask Christ to come, calling him by different names, like “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”
A great way to get your little ones involved is to set up an interactive nativity scene. Your children can prepare the manger for Christ to come. On Christmas Day, they can place Baby Jesus in the manger.
Having a small nativity scene can help your children process what is going on during Advent. They must reflect on the Christmas season, and an interactive visual reminder is an ideal way to accomplish this.
Another fun, interactive activity for your family during Advent is to begin a Jesse Tree. Each day of Advent, read a story from the Bible and hang an ornament on a small tree.
A Jesse Tree journeys through the family line of Jesus, beginning with Adam, so each day, the Bible story should be about someone from Jesus’ family line. The idea of the tree stems from Isaiah 11:1, which foreshadows Jesus being a branch shooting out from the line of Jesse.
7. Perform Acts of Kindness
Christmas and Advent are already times of giving and joy, so why not perform acts of kindness or service as a family? You can give in so many different ways during the season. Choose to make a tradition out of volunteering for a food bank or at a church dinner, or donate to a family in need.
During each day of Advent, your family can do one small act of kindness as well. It could be helping someone carry groceries or paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. No matter what you do, it will help remind you of what God has done for you, giving you mercy and grace each day through his son, Jesus.
How Will Your Family Celebrate Advent?
While the shopping and chaos of the holiday season can distract you from Advent, you can still focus on the meaning of the season by celebrating the time of Advent with your family. Christ has come, and He will come again — through Advent and Christmas, your family will understand and appreciate the essence of this season by adding some traditions.