Celebrating Advent/Christmas with Joyful Expectation

By Denna, B.

Advent is 25 days worth of waiting, expecting, and HOPE. I love celebrating this time of year at home and with our church family. Here are some of our favorite activities:

Advent Wreath/Candles

  1. Wreath/5 Candles – We put a green wreath (fresh cut pine/cedar tree branches or a store-bought wreath) in the middle of our dining room table. Then we add 5 candles with holders – one candle for each of the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas Day and one to light on Christmas Day. There are different themes for each candle – we use 3 purple candles (Bethlehem, Prophecy, Angels), 1 pink candle (Shepherds/Joy), and 1 white/ivory candle (Christ). (see picture)
  2. Advent readings – For the past 8+ years, our family sets aside about 10 minutes each night to light one of the Advent candles (whichever week we are on) and read a chapter in an Advent book (with Scripture readings) by Arnold Ytreeide who has written the following:
  • Jotham’s Journey
  • Bartholomew’s Passage
  • Tabitha’s Travels
  • Ishtar’s Odyssey
  1. “Jesus is the Light of the World” bedtime routine – After our Advent story and Scripture reading, we let one of the kids light a candle (separate from the Advent candles) and use it to lead their siblings to their bedrooms. They tell each other goodnight and “Jesus is the Light of the World,” then get to keep the candle by their bed until we go to bed.

Nativity sets – The kids and I  love to put up several sets around the house, including a plastic one for the younger kids to play with.

Hanging of the Greens – A lady from the church here once told me how the little country church where she grew up brought everyone together to decorate the church for Christmas, and then they ate soup together. We have done something similar here with our two locations for the rural/small-town church plants. We put up whatever Christmas decorations we have and a Nativity set. I make sure we have Advent Wreath supplies for both locations. My husband lights one of the candles and reads some verses to start each of the four Sunday services leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Eve Services – The ranchers and rural people asked us to offer a Christmas Eve service from the very beginning of our church plant. They wanted something for their families to attend, including their extended families who visit for Christmas. Our family travels to two locations every year as we are “one church; two locations.” My husband started a tradition of beginning these services with the lights dimmed and a joy-filled Christmas music video. He then lights the 5th and final Advent candle (the Christ candle), and reads accompanying Scriptures. We sing Christmas hymns together, have a special music or two, and then he gives a short devotional. The kids are invited to act out the Christmas story, keeping it simple with homemade costumes and no rehearsals. We end the service with everyone’s favorite part: someone starts playing “Silent Night” on the piano as everyone grabs their own candles from the back and makes their way to the front to light them from the Christ candle, making a large circle and singing the words once everyone makes it to the circle with their candles. My husband invites us to share that “Jesus is the Light of the World” with each other before we blow out our candles and then we visit over hot chocolate and candy canes.

The Joy That Comes Through Knowing 

By, Marci A.

I’ve never liked the winter, but I see the beauty in it. The cold might pierce right through me, but the snow sparkling on the barren trees dazzles my eyes. Often, life is like this too. There are times when life seems so bleak that we feel like we will never see the sun again, but then the glory of God shines through and we are startled by the beauty He brings.

Even in the darkest of darkest night we have the hope of knowing that God is in control. Psalm 46:1 says, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” What joy it brings to see God do something utterly amazing with circumstances in our lives that seem daunting and incomprehensible to our human hearts. God takes the darkness and turns it into a thing of beauty that we never could have imagined had we been left to our own devices.

During this Advent season we are joyful as we are reminded of the coming of the Son and the wonder surrounding His birth so many years ago.  With His coming, we celebrate the throwing off of sin and sorrow and the renewal of life through salvation. When we experience winter and barrenness in our own lives, we can face the process of waiting for renewal with joy because we know exactly Who we are waiting for.