How to Start an Advent Devotion as an Annual Family Tradition
It’s so easy to get caught up in the consumerism at Christmas time. The “me, me, me” attitude can be found around every corner and it can get downright discouraging.
In purposing to raise our children to focus on Jesus and not the presents at Christmas, we have found that advent devotions as a family have been fruitful in reigning in the self-centered attitudes, that can sadly come with the holiday, and place the spotlight back on Jesus who is the only reason we even celebrate Christmas.
Starting an advent devotion as an annual family tradition doesn’t need to be overwhelming or hard and I know once you see the fruit from the time spent together in the richness of God’s word, you’ll decide to bring it back year after year.
What is Advent Anyway?
The word Advent comes from the Latin word “Adventus” which means coming and/or arrival. Advent is done to anticipate the coming of the newborn King; the baby Jesus. Advent starts the first Sunday after Thanksgiving and ends on December 25, Christmas day. Some people celebrate advent until Epiphany on January 6 as well.
These advent weeks are a season of preparation in getting our hearts right and minds aligned with the Savior that came to rescue us from sin and death. The time of Advent is also marked by the spirit of expectation, yearning and longing for the One and only Messiah that would bring peace to the world.
During the four Sundays, or four weeks, an exciting and special time is set aside to read scripture, sing and pray in light of the glorious day that will soon arrive. Advent can be celebrated on each of the four Sundays or it can be celebrated multiple times during the weeknights as well as each Sunday. Depending on the craziness of the season, our family has done it both ways. We always make a point to do at least the four Sundays though.
Advent Creates a Family Bond
Over the many years that we have held this family tradition, it has become a much requested time that’s looked forward to by all of us. For us, it signals the beginning of the Christmas season and our many other traditions that come along with the holiday.
To make this time even more special, on the first night, I usually make a goody like these for our time together. I also like to serve dairy-free hot chocolate or organic hot apple cider. If we just do advent on Sundays then I will try to serve a treat each time. If it is a year that we are able to do the weeknights too, I don’t make dessert for those nights.
We also try to plan our first advent the same night that we purchase our Christmas tree. If you have a fake tree, you could even do it the night you put your Christmas tree up. There’s nothing cozier than sitting by the beautiful tree, sipping hot cocoa, reading scripture, singing carols and praying with family!
One of my favorite blessings in past years was to hear both of my boys read scripture for the first time when they first started being able to read.
A funny way that created our family bond in regards to this tradition over the years is how bad we sing! Seriously, we try, but it is hilarious. We always have carol lyrics for each person to view and sometimes we play the melody on a device too. It is a blast to have fun and sing the Godly, Christmas carols together no matter how good or bad we sound. We always end up laughing at the end of our carol!
Since it is a given that during this season we will be doing family advent devotionals, it is inevitable that we will have guests at some point. One of the biggest blessings of doing advent is being able to have our guests participate with us. We love it and they have loved it too!
The Best Supplies for Your Advent Family Devotional
You won’t need many supplies because the idea is to keep it simple so that advent devotionals are doable nightly or every weekend.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Advent Wreath The wreath itself speaks of God’s infinite mercy and His eternity. We have used a few different ones over the years. I have made one with greenery and little tea light votive holders and I have also used a purchased one that is made of metal. There is a lot to choose from here if you want to look for something unique.
Advent Candles We’ve always used the purple and pink taper candles with one short, white pillar candle in the middle that we have lit all of Christmas day. The shape of the candles depends on your wreath and the colors depend on your preference. The purple candles represent repentance and the time we were in darkness without Jesus and the pink candle represents Jesus’ majesty. The white, of course, represents Jesus pure and holy gift, His birth, His life and His resurrection washing us white as snow. Some people choose to use red and green candles or even blue. It’s really a personal choice. You can also use LED candles so you won’t need the lighter below. Honestly, we love the look of a real flickering flame though.
Matches or a lighter to light the candles We like to use long tipped lighters so our little guy can participate in lighting the candles too. Be prepared to teach your kids to take turns for the lighting as they will all want a chance.
There are many reasons we love the $3.99 devotional:
- In the beginning, it tells you how to make your own wreath if you want too and tells you how to set things up in regards to colored candles, etc.
- Each week it instructs you which candle to light, what the candle means and the color. It also always begins with an introduction and then goes right into the devotionals.
- The devotions have Bible verses to look up, then a story to read about those Bible verses that give a greater insight into the meaning of what was read. I also love that in some of the devotions there is a time of personal reflection that even the littles can do. In the end, there are also optional verses to look up which we always like to divvy up and read as well.
- All the Biblical Christmas carols are printed in the book with all the stanzas with some that are really hard to find.
- There is even a section for nursery style carols for the young children to enjoy.
- In the back of the book, the author shares ways to make advent time even more fun for the family too.
- This advent devotional book is so well rounded and that’s why we have used it for over a decade now. Regardless of what devotional you use, be sure to set aside time to do it. It will be one of the highlights of your Christmas season.
How to Do an Advent Devotion
It’s really quite simple. Make time to gather together for about 15 minutes to a half hour.
We enjoy doing the devotional after we have eaten dinner and everyone’s around the table anyway.
- Have the wreath with candles set up already. It will stay on your table or near it for the whole season.
- Have someone light the appropriate candle for the night.
- Read the devotional and the Scriptures.
- Talk a little about what you read.
- Choose a carol to sing together and sing it.
- End the time in prayer. It can either be one person who prays or you can go around the table.
- Choose someone to blow out the candle.
Gather Together Intentionally
The only way that an advent devotion happens in our home is because we prioritize it.
If you would like to say yes to doing an advent devotional this year, that’s great! Just understand that something else will probably need to go to make room for the time. That’s ok because the time of Advent is rich with history, tradition as well as growing in faith, and it will be well worth the sacrifice.
To make advent devotions work in your home let everyone know that each Sunday (at least) will be an evening intentionally set aside to focus on advent. Get them excited about what it’ll be like and build excitement.
Momma, be sure you also set aside time purposely for this so that it doesn’t become a burden but rather it is a welcome refreshment in the business of the season.
The time of gathering together as a family with an intention to focus on THE Christ in Christmas will refresh everyone’s soul and soften hearts as well as get eyes fixed on Emmanuel.
It doesn’t have to be perfect
For all of you type A’s out there (like me) just remember, that this time you set aside won’t be perfect. A little one may start crying or be upset that they didn’t get to light the candle. Another one may get upset because they didn’t want to sing the carol that was chosen for the night. That’s ok. Just roll with it.
Don’t let those behavior distractions (from the enemy) get you down or steal your joy about doing an advent devotion. Persevere, make it exciting and focus your eyes on Jesus. You will be abundantly filled up because you purposed to do this.
On a side note, since we moms can get overburdened during this time, something else I intentionally do during the season is to take 15-20 minutes of quiet time each morning reading God’s Word and writing Scripture and, during this season, I go through this book. It helps my mommy mind hold the right perspective as the day wears on and the challenges of life face me.
Maybe these things will help you too! Enjoy the season of Advent and please let me know your victories too! If you already do advent and want to share something you do, I would absolutely love to hear about it in the comments below.