By Wendy Berghane, Hearts Alive Curriculum Specialist
The weeks leading to Christmas can be hectic. Christmas recitals and parties, shopping lists, meals to prepare, and homes to decorate… It can add up to be quite an overwhelming season! The church calendar sets apart these four weeks before Christmas to allow for preparation. It is meant to be a time where we focus on Christ, his birth, and his coming again. So much of that can get lost in the hustle and bustle of “the season,” but Advent can be a really precious time for families to not only talk about Jesus’s birth, but also prepare their hearts in some meaningful and fun ways.
Many families create Advent wreaths to help mark the weeks and take time to think through the coming of Jesus. Advent wreaths have four candles and traditionally each candle has a meaning. The first candle is the candle of hope, followed by the candles of peace, joy, and love. Making the Advent wreath and lighting the candles every week can be a fun activity, but why not take it a step further? Instead of simply lighting each candle and talking about its name, build a new family tradition that puts that name into action! Here are some ideas for how you can do that:
(This can be done without the accompaniment of an Advent Wreath as well.)
Talk with your children about what they “hope” to get for Christmas. Explain that we have a different kind of hope in Jesus as our Savior. Our hope is based in the certainty that no matter how tough things get, he promises to care for us, love us, and save us! Think of a way your family could provide hope for someone! No matter how rough things are for others, we can pass on God’s hope that good abounds. Find a local charity that is doing a toy drive for kids who may be hurting, and buy a gift to donate. Or sign up to help at a soup kitchen or send a Christmas package to our military. There are so many ways you and your family can provide hope to your community!
The Peace candle represents the peace we have in our hearts knowing that we are loved by God and saved by his grace through the gift of Jesus. We don’t have to worry about the day’s troubles because we know how the story ends. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, settles our hearts and gives us freedom from fears. As a family, think through how you can spread peace this week. Perhaps you find a way to help someone with a worry or concern. Or think of someone you can pray for or pray with who may need a friend to help lift their needs to God.
When we know how much we are loved and truly understand how precious the gift of Jesus is, we have such joy in our hearts! Joy is not reliant on circumstances. It doesn’t need good things to happen for it to bubble in your soul. It’s the ability to see the good, even in hardship. Joy is the reaction to living into God’s immense love for you, and it is so contagious! How can your family spread joy this week? How can you shine light into another’s life? Perhaps make some treats for your neighbor or help a friend or family member with a chore. Gather some friends to go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood. Take time to visit a local assisted living center. Pay it forward in the Starbucks drive through. (This is especially fun if you have a teen who likes their Starbucks!)
And last but definitely not least is love. The love candle represents the whole story of Jesus. The love God has for you is deep—so deep, in fact, that he doesn’t want to be without you. That is why he sent himself to us in the form of a baby, Jesus. We can never replicate God’s unfathomable love, but we certainly can do our best to love others! In the last days before Christmas, have your family talk about why you all love each other. Write those things down so that it can be a year-round reminder! You can also write notes of love and appreciation to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, pastors, teachers, friends; everyone can use a healthy dose of loving words!
Be intentional this Advent and Christmas season with your focus. It doesn’t take any great preparation or lots of extra money to spread some of God’s hope, peace, joy, and love this Christmas season. And the effects will last much longer than the gifts under the tree. Create new traditions in your family that bless others and end up blessing you as well!
It's not too late to order our Advent devotional for children and families, The King Is Coming! It takes families through the salvation story by focusing on who God is, the gift of Jesus, and the importance of celebrating and sharing that miraculous gift! Bring your family together this Advent season for a journey exploring God’s big love for you!
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