How Should We Celebrate Advent? – Part 3/4
- Read Part 1 – What Time Is It? Introduction to Advent
- Read Part 2 – The First Advent: Birth of a King
For most Americans, there is a significant rite of passage that takes place around the age of sixteen. This is the process of obtaining a driver’s license. Most people’s experience of getting a license begins with having to study a manual on the “rules of the road” to pass an exam. After months of preparation, students take their test and, after passing, are given permission to get behind the wheel of a car with adult supervision. The Department of Motor Vehicles knows something most Christians struggle to grasp: it is not enough to have the right answers to become a good driver. What people need is practice.
For the past two weeks, we have given you a crash course on the season of Advent and how it could be integral to your Christian formation. Now it’s time to grab the keys and begin putting into practice what you have been learning. Our desire is for you to move from being a passive spectator to an active participant. In this article, we will provide seven simple ways to enter into this Advent season so that you might have a fresh encounter with the coming King Jesus.
1. Silence in a Season of Noise
The first practice to consider this Advent is to develop a rhythm of silence in a season of noise. The days leading up to Christmas are often filled with hurry, chaos, and anxiety. One of the ways Christians can counter these pathways is by creating moments of silence in their day. Just as Israel waited in silence for four hundred years, longing for God to speak before Jesus was born, we can re-enact this reality by creating silence in our lives, developing a posture of waiting. Depending on your life-season and circumstances, could you set aside twenty minutes at the beginning or end of your day to cultivate a heart of waiting on God? It could be as simple as lighting a candle and reflecting on a selection of Scripture from Luke 1 and 2.
2. Fasting in a Season of Feasting
The second practice to consider is fasting in a season of feasting. In the Church Calendar, Advent is a penitential season—a time of reflection and repentance. For many, the Christmas season is a time of unabated indulgence in treats and delicious food. This feasting should be enjoyed by Christians as we celebrate the abundance God has provided to us in Christ. However, in the Advent season, fasting also becomes a powerful way to cultivate our longings for Jesus above anything else. The act of abstaining from certain foods reveals our neediness, and our hunger cues become tangible reminders of our ultimate longing: to know and be known by God. If you are medically able, consider choosing one meal each week of Advent to fast from or perhaps choose to give up one specific Christmas treat during the season.
3. Generosity in a Season of Greed
We have all witnessed the frenzied dash of shoppers in stores during the Christmas season. We have also experienced dwindling bank accounts as we purchase the newest gadget or technology for a loved one. But what if this season of Advent was an opportunity to practice radical generosity? Consider who you could sacrificially bless with your resources this Advent season and consider doing so anonymously.
4. Pick a Daily Devotional or Christmas Book
Thankfully, faithful Christians who have gone before us have created a plethora of helpful resources and guides to help us participate fully in the Advent season. Consider pausing whatever your current devotional habits are and choosing an Advent-specific resource to ponder each day.
5. Create an Advent Playlist
Music is one of the powerful mediums that form and shape us as a people. This is why Christians gather each Sunday to sing together. This Advent season, consider creating a playlist of rich Advent songs to sing in your home, on your commute, or during your exercise routines. A platform like Spotify or YouTube makes it easier for you to create a customized playlist for this purpose.
6. Organize Four Family Meals
One of the most formative environments for families is the daily dinner. With just a little intentionality and planning, families can transform this simple space into a sacred encounter with God. In many traditions, each of the four Sundays of Advent has a theme: hope, peace, joy, and love. Many people choose to represent these themes by lighting a corresponding candle. Consider buying four candles this year before Advent, lighting one more candle during your Sunday dinner each week. After lighting the candles, it could be helpful to watch the short and beautifully illustrated Bible Project videos on these word themes. Use these videos to spark discussion at your table about where each person has experienced hope, peace, joy, or the love of God during their week.
7. Celebrate Twelve Days Not Just One
Did you know that in the Church Calendar, Christmas is not a single day but a season of twelve days? What good news! From December 24th to January 5th, consider twelve different ways to celebrate the coming of Jesus and his Kingdom in our midst. As an individual or family, prepare beforehand a tangible moment during each of those twelve days to remember and celebrate Christ’s birth. Get creative—consider activities such as enjoying God’s good creation, having delicious meals, playing games, sharing gifts, and connecting with friends and neighbors as part of the twelve days of Christmas.
The longing and waiting of Advent is met with the unbelievable reality that God took on flesh, becoming human, making his home alongside us. Enemies and strangers are now invited to become the friends of God through Jesus Christ. May this Advent season be one of wonder that Christ has come and also one of renewed hope that he will come again!
“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”
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