Last year, I imposed a new tradition on our new little family – the celebration of Advent. It wasn’t a tradition from my childhood. I just wanted to find a way to celebrate Christmas a little longer than a day. Most years, I would enjoy the season but wouldn’t really think about the meaning of Christmas until Christmas day. And even then, with the swirl of activities that occurs on Christmas days, sometimes the “reason for the season” was masked by fervent gift-opening, mashed potatoes, and jingle bells. Not that those things are wrong.
I suppose I could have made three decisions:
- Reject the celebration of “Christmas” all together. After all, it has become a commercialized hullabaloo. It seems that parents teach children to treat Santa almost like God by instructing them to base their behavior, their attitude, and their future well-being on making Santa happy. Plus, there’s a 1 out of 365 chance that December 25 is Jesus’s birthday. But, I didn’t really like the idea of rejecting Christmas outright, because I really like the Christmas season with all that yuletide cheer and wassailing. I think that meaningful Christmas traditions are healthy for families and downright fun, and plus, I would seem like a prude. The idea behind Christmas – remembering the incarnation of Jesus – is a good idea.
- Just go with the flow and celebrate Christmas like everybody else. This is appealing, because it doesn’t break the status quo. It’s what everyone else is doing, and that’s almost always easier. But, as previously mentioned, I was tired of doing that. Since I was not going to go with option “1,” if I was going to celebrate Christmas (and don’t get me wrong, I want to), then I wanted to make sure that I was going to get everything out of it that I could. I didn’t want to find myself on Christmas day, all satiated with chestnuts that had been roasted on an open fire and lulled by yuletide carols being sung by a choir, only for the thought of the true meaning of Christmas to come to my mind and only half-heartedly paying homage to what happened when Christ humbled himself by taking on human flesh. So, “2” was out too.
- Come up with something more meaningful and personal for my family. This was my choice.
And in reality, I didn’t come up with something new. Actually, it’s very old. The “new” tradition that I decided on was the celebration of Advent. You can learn some of the history about it onWikipedia. In a nutshell, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Different denominations use it slightly different ways, but in general, it’s used to remember how Israel waited and hoped for the coming of the Messiah and how we, as Christians, are waiting and are hoping for the coming of the Messiah, but this time, not as a baby who would grow to be our sin-conquering Savior, but our ruling Lord of all the earth who will banish evil once and for all and show himself to be as glorious as he truly is.
So, I did some research on how others celebrate it and tweaked it to my own liking; again, I didn’t want just another empty tradition. What I decided on was having an Advent wreath (see picture below); each week, you light a new candle along with the previous ones, starting on Sunday; each of the four outside candles on the wreath have a different focus, and the center candle, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas day. I like this “technique,” because while some people have the same theme for the same candle every year, you can switch it up or have a different focus each year. As such, this is how the Crossley family is going to celebrate it this year:
Week of Sunday, November 30 – Candle One
Waiting for the Lord – as seen in Israel when they were waiting for the Messiah and as we are now.
Week of Sunday, December 7 – Candle Two
Faith in God’s Way – as seen in Mary and Joseph having to trust that God knew what he was doing
Week of Sunday December 14 – Candle Three
Peace on Earth through Christ – as proclaimed from heaven by the angels
Week of Sunday, December 21 – Candle Four
Joy at Christ’s Appearing – as seen in the reaction of the shepherds upon hearing the news of Christ’s birth and upon seeing him in person
Christmas Eve – All four outside candles burning bright!
Love Demonstrated – as seen in Christ not counting equality with God a thing to be grasped and taking on human flesh and dying for us
Christmas Day – All the candles – the four on the outside and the Christ candle on the inside – burning even brighter!
Light of the World – as seen in Christ being the light of the world and as seen in us also having that role
Last year, on Sunday, when the newest candle would be lit, we would read some passages from Scripture, but all the other nights, we would just light the candles at dinner. This year, we will read a different little chunk of Scripture each night that relates to the theme for that week; then, we’ll discuss it. A song might be thrown in here and there too, but I’m still working on that aspect.
I’m writing about all of this, because I found this to be so helpful for me and my family to keep our focus on Christ last year, and I thought that it might be helpful for other families. As such, every day, starting tomorrow, I will share our families passage for the day and some thoughts on that passage. So be sure to check back every day until Christmas! And please feel free to share your own thoughts and comments. I’d love to hear them.
Also, what are some meaningful Christmas traditions that your family has?
Let the Advent-ure begin!