What is Advent?
I know, Thanksgiving comes first. And I do love Thanksgiving. The food, the family, the opportunity to express gratitude for all those things and more. But Advent is probably my favorite celebration of the year. Not Christmas necessarily, but Advent, the time leading up to Christmas. The anticipation of Christ’s arrival. The celebration of Hope, Peace, Joy and ultimate Love.
A few years ago, I asked a group of elementary-aged children this question. Keep in mind that these children have been “raised” in church so the terminology of “advent” was not unfamiliar to them. But the answers… oh, the answers… seriously, one of the reasons I love working with kids.
… when you can’t find the angel for the top of tree and you look all over the house for it
… a fun trip into the jungle (I think he though I meant “adventure”)
… when you light candles on the tree branches that fall off the tree (think Advent wreath)
… that thing you use to light Christmas lights
… the songs you sing at Christmas time
Admittedly there were some closer guesses, “countdown to Christmas” being the most popular one, but in reality, most of the kids had no idea about the heart and the wonder behind the season of Advent.
And that got me thinking? Why? I know for a fact that Advent has always been celebrated at this church. Every year on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, candles had been lit and Hope, Peace, Joy and Love talked about. Liturgical Scriptures were read and Advent vespers services were held. But somehow, the whole meaning behind the celebration of Advent was missed by the children.
So the question is, how much of what we do on Sunday still has meaning for us on Monday?
You see, lighting the candle of Hope on Sunday doesn’t mean a whole lot to me or you (or to our kids) if we don’t talk about that hope, contemplate that hope, and celebrate that hope for the rest of the week.
Reading beautiful Scriptures of God’s promises and love for us doesn’t mean a whole lot if it stays inside the church walls and never makes it to our dinner table, our car ride, our community, and our job.
Singing a few hymns of Christmas joy won’t impact our lives until we consider the words and use them to praise God on our recliner at home as much as we do our pew at church.
The reality is, if we are “doing” something at church and not “doing” that same thing the rest of the week, we are compartmentalizing our faith to a building instead of incorporating our faith into transformed lives.
We don’t have to literally light an Advent candle every night but if we want our children to know about the Hope of Christ, we need to talk about it every day.
And it’s fine and even fun to sing Christmas carols in the car but we also need to model a life of worship everywhere we go.
We don’t necessarily have to read Scripture aloud in front of our family but Scripture needs to be a part of our everyday conversations with our kids.
I once asked a similar group of kids what church was. My answers ranged from “A building we go to on Sunday” to “Where God lives.” I know these are kids and “kids say the darndest things” but let’s be real for a minute.
If we live lives that say “Church is a building we go to on Sunday because God is there” how else are our children to interpret our faith? What if instead we told our kids, “Church is the family of God and He is always with us so we are always in church?” Not with those words, but with our lives.
Spontaneous worship. Times of prayer. Lighting of candles. Corporate worship. Waiting expectantly in hope for the arrival of Christ.
These things don’t need to be limited to a place, a time, a special moment. These things can be lived all year long and our lives can be a living testimony to a vibrant, growing faith.
Want some ideas on how to bring Advent home in simple, practical ways? Click here!
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About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed