Celebrating Advent is a beautiful way for families to create meaningful traditions, and remember God’s promises to send a Messiah, and how Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies.

The warm glow of Christmas tree lights filled the living room. Six-year-old Noah sat on the carpet with his younger sister, playing with the Christmas train they had set up the night before. He set down the passenger car, and his eyes fell on the Advent calendar, studying its unopened boxes. “Momma?” he asked. “What is Advent all about?”

His mom dried her hands on a dishtowel and walked into the living room where he and his sister sat. “Well, Advent is a time when we celebrate the coming of Jesus. We read the Bible, remember God’s promises, celebrate Jesus’ birth, and the anticipation that He will return soon.”

“Do we get to start celebrating all that tonight?” Noah asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, we do. Why don’t you go get the Bible?”

Noah jumped up to retrieve the Bible from its special place on the bookshelf and carried it to where his sister and mom had curled up on the couch. Together, they lit the first purple candle on their Advent wreath and settled down to read from the Bible and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus?

Advent takes place during the four weeks preceding Christmas and is a celebration of the coming of Jesus Christ. If you’re starting a little late, that’s okay. You can adapt your Advent celebration to fit the needs and schedules of your family in any way you choose.

What is Advent?

The word advent, and the Latin word adventus from which it was derived, both mean the coming or arrival of an esteemed person.

Celebrated before Christmas, Advent is a beautiful time to remember God’s promises to send a Messiah and how Jesus Christ fulfilled those prophecies. His birth, life, death, and resurrection made it possible for each of us to have a relationship with God and spend eternity with Him.

But Advent isn’t only about celebrating the birth of Jesus. It’s also a time to rejoice and hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ. In the same way that people waited with anticipation and prepared for the birth of the Messiah, Advent reminds us to remember God’s promises and prepare our hearts for His return.

Meaning of Advent

The word, “advent” simply means “coming.” In the context of the Christian faith, it represents our celebration of the first coming of Christ and our anticipation of his second coming. The birth of the Messiah was promised in the Old Testament and was anticipated by God’s people for a very long time.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to Joseph, Matthew says this happened to fulfill the promise in Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Matthew 1:23).

One fun tradition through Advent is to collect several of these promises, talk about them together, and even memorise some of them.

The History of Advent

No one is sure of the date that Christians first celebrated Advent; however, many believe it has been celebrated since the fifth century A.D., around the same time the Roman Empire fell. During that time, churches set aside the four weeks preceding Christmas for fasting, prayer, and baptisms.

It was not until the twentieth century that the tradition of an advent calendar started.

As a child, Gerhard Lang’s mother had given him a treat on each night of Advent to help him understand how many days were left until Christmas. As an adult, he created the first printed version of the advent calendar. Now, advent calendars can be found in all shapes and sizes.

Remember, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. So every year, is a little different.

Why Celebrate Advent?

Advent is a wonderful celebration to share with your entire family, young to old. It’s a time to draw closer to God and closer together.

There are three main reasons to celebrate Advent:

  1. Advent helps us focus on the reason for the Christmas season and prepare our hearts to receive the gift God gave when He sent His Son, Jesus, to live among us. Advent is an intentional time of focusing our hearts on Him and the promises He has, and will continue to fulfill.

  1. It reminds us of God’s eternal presence. While we need to nurture our relationship with Jesus at all times of the year, Advent is a time that can help us to reflect on that relationship and how we can seek to draw closer to Him in the coming year.

  1. Advent gives us hope and reminds us that Jesus Christ will return to this earth someday and that we need to renew and prepare our hearts every day for his return. The celebration of Advent is one that we share with Christians worldwide and helps us remember that we are united with one another as sisters and brothers in Christ.

The Four Themes of Advent

Each of the four weeks before Christmas has its own theme. The four themes of Advent, which start each week on Sunday: HopeFaithJoy, and Peace.

You can celebrate Advent with your kids each week’s theme in various ways, including the ideas listed below. Our ideas can get you started. As the years, and your family grows, you will think of other ways to celebrate each theme of Advent.

Ways to Celebrate Advent

When thinking of ways to celebrate Advent with your family, it’s vital to pick a time when everyone can get together. It may be once a week, every night after dinner, or the first thing you do in the morning.

Choose a time that works for everyone’s schedules and make it a priority to spend time in the Word, praying, and sharing God’s love with your family.

Traditional Advent Calendar

Traditional Advent calendars are steeped in tradition and significance, and offer more than a simple countdown to Christmas. They are a daily reminder of the advent, or arrival, of Jesus, making each day of December a meaningful journey. A traditional Advent calendar, with its doors or pockets hiding small treasures, becomes a symbol of anticipation and reflection.

Each day’s opening acts as a moment to pause and ponder the deeper meaning of Christmas, connecting us with the story of Christ’s birth over two thousand years ago.

The beauty of using a traditional Advent calendar lies in its ability to transform the holiday season into a period of spiritual enrichment for the whole family. While children get to open each door and find a tiny gift; it’s still about remembering and honouring the reason for the season.

For families, this practice can become a cherished ritual, where each day’s revelation from the calendar brings an opportunity for shared reflection, prayer, or reading. In this way, the Advent calendar helps to centre the Christmas celebration around Christ, making the entire season a richer, more fulfilling experience that extends beyond the commercial aspects of the holiday.

Advent Wreath and Candles

Advent wreaths and candles tend to go hand in hand, though you can certainly light the candles without the greenery. The wreath symbolises God’s eternal nature and how we have everlasting life in Him through Jesus Christ.

The candles are lit each week to represent each of the themes of Advent. There are typically three purple candles for hope, faith, and peace with a pink candle for joy. Sometimes a fifth candle, white for purity, is lit on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Son of God’s arrival.

Create an Advent Wreath to use at dinner. The Advent wreath is part of the liturgical countdown to Christmas, it helps children understand why Advent is important.

You can buy a ready-made Advent wreath or make it yourself.

To get you started, here is paper Advent wreath you can download.

Time needed: 20 minutes

If you want to make a more traditional with greenery, that’s not hard to do either and can add a fun craft to do with older children.

How to Make a Traditional Advent wreath:

  1. With green crafting wire, fasten live or plastic evergreen branches to a wire wreath circle, or crafting circle.
    Tip: Use the clippings from trimming your Christmas tree.

  1. Making an Advent Wreath
  2. After you attach the first branch, lay the second branch over the end of the first so it covers the stem.Making an Advent Wreath
  3. Continue in this way until you reach where you began.Making an Advent Wreath
  4. Tuck the ends of your final branches under the foliage of the beginning branches.This circle of evergreen branches reminds us of God without beginning and end, and of His faithfulness.

  1. Set four candles in candle holders inside the wreath.Traditionally, the wreath holds three purple candles and one rose-colored candle. Here’s where it gets fun. Decorate your wreath with the candles and ornaments that delights your family. After all, we are celebrating our God who created us each as individuals, and unique families. 
  2. Making an Advent Wreath

Celebrating With Your Advent Wreath

The first purple candle represents the long years of waiting for a Saviour. It is the anticipation and hope that the Messiah is coming.

The second purple candle represents Israel’s preparation for the Christ child and our preparation for the second coming of Jesus.

The third candle lit, the rose candle, represents rejoicing, the joy that the Messiah is coming and you’re getting closer.

The third purple candle represents the peace that God gives to all who wait on Him.

The optional white candle in the centre of your Advent wreath is actually not for Advent. Advent ends on Christmas Eve. This candle is lit on Christmas Day as a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Place your wreath in a central location in your home, where everyone can enjoy it.

How to Use an Advent Wreath

Light the Advent candles every day at dinner:

  • Beginning on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, light the first purple candle.
  • On the third Sunday before Christmas, light the first and second purple candles.
  • On the second Sunday before Christmas, light the first and second purple candles, and the rose candle.
  • On the final Sunday before Christmas, light all the purple and rose candles.

On Christmas day, celebrate Jesus’ birth by lighting the white candle in the centre of the wreath.

Jesus is the Promised Messiah

Collect Bible verses and promises about the Messiah’s coming, memorise them, and discuss with your family how Jesus’ coming fulfilled (and will fulfill!) every one of them.

Collecting God’s Promises

What Scriptures tell us of God’s Promises of a Messiah?

Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Genesis 12:1-3: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

Genesis 49:10: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

Numbers 24:17: “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”

Deuteronomy 18:15-19: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.’”

2 Samuel 7:12-16: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’”

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 9:6-7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah 11:1-10: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.”

Isaiah 53: This chapter is extensive, detailing the suffering servant, including verses like: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Jeremiah 23:5-6: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’”

Ezekiel 34:23-24: “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.”

Daniel 7:13-14: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Micah 5:2: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”

Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Malachi 3:1-4: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.”

Family Devotionals

Explore our Advent devotionals with your family.

Each day during Advent, we provide questions designed for each age and stage of your children. Your family can read excerpts from the Bible and engage in discussion and everyone can participate.

Ready to Celebrate?

As we approach the Christmas season, we at Focus on the Family encourage you as parents to embrace the rich tradition of Advent. If this is a new tradition for your family, you will discover this special time offers a unique opportunity to prepare our hearts and homes for the birth of Jesus.

In a world often caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, Advent stands as a beacon of hope and reflection.

By celebrating Advent, you’re providing your family with a spiritual anchor amid the commercial rush. It’s a time to teach your children about the true meaning of Christmas, beyond the toys and fantasy.

Lead your children in activities of Advent, reading Bible stories, discovering the promises of the coming Christ, lighting the Advent wreath, or using an Advent calendar to count down the days. These traditions not only bring joy and anticipation but also create lasting memories and reinforce your family’s faith–gifts that last a lifetime.

Advent is a time for prayer and reflection, offering a chance to grow closer to God and understand the profound impact of Christ’s birth. It’s a season filled with joy, hope, and the promise of God’s love. As we celebrate Advent, we connect with Christians worldwide, sharing in a tradition that transcends time and place.

Let’s use this Advent to slow down, appreciate the moments with our loved ones, and prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus. It’s a beautiful way to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas and instill lasting values in our children.

©2023 Focus on the Family. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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