Celebrating Christ’s birth and anticipating His Second Coming
Editor’s Note: Advent begins Sunday, December 3, 2017. Hopefully after reading this article, you’ll think differently about this special time of celebration and use it as a time to teach your church kids in celebrating Christ’s birth and anticipating His Second Coming.
Growing up in a Pentecostal church, Advent wasn’t a part of my vocabulary, let alone included on my calendar as something to look forward to. As I grew older and heard of Advent, Lent, and other liturgical principle celebrations, I assumed these celebrations were solely observed by the Roman Catholic Church, and were mundane religious celebrations that were not really to be practiced by Pentecostals or evangelicals. It wasn’t until I did my own in-depth study of the history and traditions behind Advent that I discovered this celebration is not solely tied to the Roman Catholic Church, but goes all the way back to the prophet Isaiah. I also discovered the spiritual growth that comes from observing Advent.
Advent is a Latin word meaning coming. During the season of Advent, we remember the first Advent of Christ (His birth) and anticipate the second Advent (the return of Christ). Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas day. For families, observing Advent can be a powerful way of celebrating Christ during the Christmas season.
WHY SHOULD WE CELEBRATE ADVENT?
Focus and Clarity
Celebrating Advent focuses our thoughts and actions on what matters most during a time of the year when we can easily become distracted by the busyness of the season! With Christmas parties scheduled every week in the month of December and shopping to do, we can forget that we are supposed to be celebrating the birth of Christ. In the midst of planning events at church and talking about the birth of Christ, what are we really focusing on spiritually? When we are so focused on having successful parties, decorating spaces and putting on productions, it makes the things counterproductive that we are giving our time and energy to, and we send the wrong message to our family!
During the Christmas season, children are looking forward to Christmas day. They are filled with excitement and wonder of what will be wrapped in boxes under the tree. There’s nothing wrong with gifts or with kids being excited about them.
While observing Advent, we experience the same anticipation a child does at Christmas, much like the Hebrews experienced as they anticipated the coming of the Messiah. We are reminded in the Advent season that we anticipate the Second Coming of Christ, because evil will be judged, and the earth and all that is in it will be restored! I believe it’s hard for us in the modern American church to yearn for the Second Coming of Christ and the ascension into heaven, because we tend to live in our own perfect heaven here on earth. We’ve got nice homes, big screen TVs, and dreams and goals to accomplish in our lifetime. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are made whole when we are one with Him who is seated at the right hand of the Father! Celebrating Advent leads us in this anticipation and allows us to lead our family in it as well.
How do we Celebrate Advent?
Advent Guide: There are many great evangelical resources for families and adults to use as guides during Advent. These usually involve weekly Scripture reading, worship music, and discussion questions. My wife and I have used Advent guides every year, which has been spiritually formative, taking us deeper in our celebration of the birth of Christ. These guides also have fun activities that you can do with your kids to make Advent engaging for them. The Village Church in Dallas, Texas, puts out a great guide for adults and families. She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth produces a great guide for women and men, as well as fun activities for kids.
The Gifts of Advent: As parents we must always be mindful of how we are filling our calendars. During the Christmas season, this can be even more important. We send a message to our kids by the things we do and say. If we fill our schedule with watching Christmas movies, making gingerbread houses, and spend less time talking of Jesus, whether we like it or not, that sends a message. Schedule time each week to talk to your kids about what Christ’s Advent brought. I’ve done this by talking on the “Gifts of Advent.” With Jesus’ coming we have hope, peace, joy, and love. Spend time talking about these gifts and intentionally bringing them to the forefront of your discussion during the Christmas season. Do crafts or activities that include each gift. This is a fun way to walk your kids through the journey of Advent.
Jesse Tree: I purchased a set of Jesse Tree ornaments from a shop on Etsy. We simply hang them on our Christmas tree in the living room, but you could choose to get another tree to hang them on. These 25 detailed Jesse Tree ornaments display a colorful symbol sticker on the front and a Scripture reference sticker on the back. Also included in the Jesse Tree ornament set is the Scripture reference guide “Come and Worship Him,” which is enhanced with Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments for each of the 25 days. It was so great, at the end of each night, to hang an ornament that told another part of the Christmas story. This will always be a part of our Christmas!
I pray through the observance of Advent, you will have your most spiritually formative celebration of the birth of Christ yet.