No, I'm not confused about which Holiday is fast approaching; I know by the carols and the lights already strung on our neighbors' houses that Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat. But as I awoke this morning with Advent on my mind, for today is the first day of the Blessed season, I thought of Palm Sunday and how similar the two pre-Holidays are.
On Palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem shouted for joy as Jesus entered their city, heralding Him the long awaited Messiah. They shouted, "Hosanna. Hosanna in the Highest... Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" They were celebrating His coming.
The latin word for coming is advent, and during our Christmas Advent season we prepare our hearts to welcome Him with similar strains, "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"
Advent season can be celebrated in a myriad of ways, both traditional or contemporary, but the purpose is always the same... to prepare our hearts for the King of Kings, the Messiah, Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us.
My family always did the advent wreath when I was young. I remember going to church each year on an early winter night as a child, along with all the other church families, to make advent wreaths. Each family would get a styrofoam ring and fresh evergreen trimmings to decorate it with. I can still smell the pine scent mingled with our spaghetti dinner in the "fellowship hall" beneath the sanctuary, as I recall the fun of our advent tradition.
Before leaving church with our advent wreaths we'd also receive a little booklet of nightly scripture readings and songs to sing, three purple candles, a pink candle, and a white candle. When we got home mom would put the wreath on our coffee table and set up the candles around the ring, with the white candle standing alone in the middle. On the first Sunday of advent we'd light the first purple candle and read together the evening's verse, and sing together our advent song. Sweet memories of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Lord at Christmastime.
Now it's our turn to be the parents and help our children ready their hearts for the coming of the Messiah. "Hosanna," we long for them to one day shout, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Last night i went online to see if I could find some help getting ready to celebrate advent with my own little family some 30 years later. Angie over at Celebrating Holidays has done a wonderful job laying out simple yet specific Bible readings for each day during the Advent season. She tells us the meaning of our common holiday symbols, where they come from and why we celebrate them as we do to this day in America. She also offers songs, crafts, recipes, and Christmas stories to be read aloud. It's all you need for celebrating Advent with your children this year!
Wherever you find your inspiration about how to celebrate the season, start this year by making fun traditions that begin on this first Sunday of Advent. Here's what our family is going to do for the four Sundays of Advent:
Advent Sunday #1. Light a fire in the fire place tonight and tell the children that Jesus was born to be the LIGHT of the world!
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5)
Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." (John 11:9-10)
Advent Sunday #2. Next Sunday light the Christmas tree and talk with your children about how Jesus desires for us to be His personal light bearers as well.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. (Philippians 2:14-16)
Advent Sunday #3. Hang a strand of Christmas lights in each of the children's rooms and share with them one on one how we are to believe in the Jesus, and be saved.
"Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. (John 12:36)
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? (Romans 8:24)
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Advent Sunday #4. Light the fire again as a family and read the Christmas story found in Matthew 1:18 - 2:23. It's a wonderful thing to have and to use a family Bible, for that is where the Light can be found. Then pray together that your family would grow to better know Jesus as the Light throughout the Christmas Season and all year long.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19)
For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life. (Proverbs 6:23)
On that very first Palm Sunday, the people shouted their Hosannas. Hosanna literally means, O Save! They were in desperate need of salvation, and so are we, and so are our children. Let's use the age old tradition of advent with our young ones and our spouses to shout together "Hosanna. Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" And "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"