Practical ideas for celebrating Advent this year
Advent calendars have been in the shops for a long time now, and you can even buy them for your pets! However, this time of year is about so much more than counting down to Christmas with chocolates.
Advent is a time of expectation, not only as we look forward to Christmas and celebrating Jesus coming in to the world, but also our expectancy of Jesus’ return in glory: They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
Here are some practical ideas for how you can anticipate the coming of Jesus, both individually and with others.
My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27)
One of our first blogs was about Bible resources we can use for study at home. There are some great devotionals to use during Advent, including these from the Bible Reading Fellowship. With their study notes you can journey through Advent individually, reflecting on how we can bring God’s love to a world in need, or by following Luke’s record of the Christmas story.
You can use the themes of Advent: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love, to find themed Bible studies or reflections for the coming month. There may be special Christmas devotionals you can follow, or you can look for Bible passages that fit these themes for your own spiritual needs. If you have been feeling anxiety, for example, you can look up verses relating to God’s peace and pray through them, using the seasonal theme to remind you of Jesus’ coming and the Peace he brings to us with His presence.
Another great idea for individual reflection during advent is to contemplate artworks depicting the Nativity story, perhaps the visit of the Magi or the annunciation . As you spend time looking at the paintings you will notice many details that allow thoughts and insights into these wonderful events.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays throughout December, Bristo will be open for an advent ‘walk through’ event. We invite you to join us for a visual experience of the Nativity story, focusing on what the Bible says about Jesus’ birth. There will also be an opportunity to personally reflect and pray on various Advent themes.
Counting down with others
The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35)
As we reach the end of November we are beginning to see more windows with Christmas decorations on display. While you plan how to decorate your home this year, consider the meaning behind the different colours we associate with the festive season.
While decorating for Christmas is cultural rather than Biblical, it can be a lovely reflective exercise. Red ornaments invite us to reflect on the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross, and green reminds us of the hope that has been gifted to us through His death. Gold decorations depict something valuable, as well as joy and celebration, while bright blue can symbolise the skies from which Jesus’ birth was announced to the shepherds and the Magi.
One specific decoration you could introduce this year is a Jesse Tree. This practice comes from medieval times, and takes you through the whole Christmas story, from creation to Jesus’ birth. Simply take a branch, which reminds us of the new life given to us by God, then, each day, read a Bible passage and hang an ornament on it, until you’ve got 25!
Another way your household can count down to Christmas is to gradually build your Nativity scene. (This is a fun idea if you have children!) Begin with the manger, stable and animals and then, each week, move figures of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men towards the Nativity scene. Each evening during their journey you could light a candle or place a star above the scene, reflecting the star that directed the Magi to Jesus. When they arrive, the only person left to add is Jesus Himself, an ideal addition for first thing on Christmas morning!
You can also decorate your windows with lights and ornaments for any passersby. Perhaps each time you go for a walk throughout December, you can collect decorations for the room, such as fir cones or holly. By Christmas Day you will have a wonderfully festive display that will bring joy to everyone who walks by your window!
What Advent traditions do you or your family follow each year? Let us know!