Advent Wreath & Devotions
Our favorite holiday tradition starts on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. I start by preparing the dining room and making an Advent wreath. We began this tradition 15 years ago. I was dreading the holidays and had completely lost my desire to do much more than put a few gifts under the tree for the kids. Our families were far apart, both sides wanting us to join them. We tried to make everyone happy by alternating with whom we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas.
One year, trying to be the good daughter and daughter-in-law, we drove from West Virginia to North Carolina to spend a few days before Christmas with my parents and my grandmother who had come up from South Carolina. We had our complete Christmas Eve and Christmas day celebration with them on December 21 & 22. We were supposed to leave on the 23rd to get back to West Virginia by December 24 to join my husband's family for their yearly Christmas Eve party-the only time all the family is together in one place. It snowed in North Carolina on December 22 and all the highways were shut down. We finally ventured out on December 24th as my husband is very experienced in driving in snowy weather. We drove all day and missed the Christmas party, arriving at my mother-in-law's house at around midnight. The whole experience really spoiled holiday travel for me.
So, October 1993, as I looked for some way to recapture my joy in the holidays, I found a booklet about celebrating Advent. That year the kids and I made our first Advent wreath and had Advent devotions as part of our home celebration. The kids were young and in order to hold their attention during devotions each evening, I made an event of it. They each received a small gift (candy or such on weeknights and Saturdays, and socks or cocoa mugs on Sundays). We kept the devotions short, but it was such a sweet time.
Gradually, my excitement came back, because we put the focus back on the real reason we celebrate the holidays. I include Thanksgiving because our tradition already included decorating for Christmas instead of shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Our Advent times got more special each year and was I bowled over the year my kids decided they wanted to lead devotions AND they each wrote their own!
As the kids grew, got jobs, and the girls started college, scheduling became an issue. We started celebrating Advent just on Sunday nights. Last year was a scheduling nightmare and we ended up changing the day we did devotions to Monday.
This year there is no way to keep up with everyone's individual obligations, so my husband and I have decided to go back to the way it was at the beginning. We will have devotions every night from the first Sunday after Thanksgiving to Christmas morning. I will prepare treats and small gifts as always for whoever happens to be with us each night. I'm really looking forward to this new phase of our holiday celebration. It will be a different kind of special as we read the word and worship the Savior together.
A Light in the Darkness by Fred A. Hartley:Suggested websites for more information on celebrating Advent:
Christians know Advent, a word which means "coming," as a time of preparation and reflection. For the course of four Sundays preceding Christmas Eve, a period of twenty-two to twenty-eight days, we anticipate the birth of Christ.
Scripture readings for Advent center around the prophecy of a Messiah and His birth in Bethlehem. They tell, too, of our life together in His name, and of His promise to return as reigning King and judge of the world.
Advent is like a light in the darkness. For us it will always be a time of great hope. A Kind called Immanuel has come into our midst, and "He will save His people from their sins."
The Advent wreath represents God's never-ending love and eternity, and the surrounding evergreens, the four Sundays. Set among the evergreens are the four candles of Advent: the first, the Candle of Light; the second, the Candle of Hope; the third, the Candle of Joy; and on the fourth Sunday the Candle of Love is lit. A fifth candle in the center of the wreath, called the Christ Candle, is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the bright light of the Messiah, Jesus, who declared, "I am the Light of the world."
There are many more. You can also find books, wreaths, and candles at your local Christian bookstore.