Hey all. Sunday is the start of Advent (I know, “Already?”)
The mothers and fathers of our faith were kind and intentional in giving us this month-long slowing-practice of reflection. When I say “slowing-practice”, what I mean is, these godly women and men looked into the future and knew the tendencies of humankind… our tendency to hurry, our tendency to consume and our tendency to place the lesser important over the more important. These are, as they say, universal human tendencies.
So, they gave us this season… a season for family, for sacredness and for remembering. Don’t miss it.
Every since our boys were very young, we have held a nightly service of reflection. We wrote it ourselves and, I assure you, it is not complicated or daunting. What it is is intentional.
Will you be intentional with us?
Some time ago, I wrote an article for Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal on the thoughtful practice of Advent. You can find that article here.
Here is a section of that article, describing the elements of our evening service. (Note: our boys are older now so our service has evolved but all the elements are still present each evening.)
I hope this seeds your imagination:
It always amazes me that a mere spoonful of forethought can transform our spiritual life. There are many, many creative ways to practice Advent. Here is one example from our family:
We set aside the season leading to Christmas for daily family ceremony. We celebrate each evening just before my youngest heads to bed. The service is not complicated, but it is intentional—and our boys seem to enjoy it.
The last several years our service has gone like this:
1. Set the atmosphere: One of our boys lights a candle on our simple wooden Advent wreath. Then we discuss some aspect of each candle’s theme (hope, peace, joy, love.) For example during the week of “hope” each evening we ask something like, “Why is Jesus’ coming hopeful for marginalized people like shepherds?” or “Why is it hopeful that people of other religions, like the Magi, are a part of Jesus’ story?”
2. Read: We do a daily reading from the Advent Book. We open 1 new door (each page of the book is an artistic door) and read a portion of the Advent story. Sometimes we review a few of the previous doors first. As they grow, the boys are encouraged to do the reading. And when they were young we play additional games like “Knock on the Door” or “Find the animal hidden in the artwork on each page.”
3. Create a tradition: One boy pins a tiny ornament to a tired-out old felt treethat my wife has treasured since she was a girl.
4. Worship: We sing a Christmas carol appropriate to their age, like “Away in a Manger.”
5. Closing: One boy blows out the candle.
All in all, it is about a 15-minute ceremony. It gives us ample opportunity to share why the incarnation is so important to us, how God valued marginalized people, and to build hope-filled anticipation of Christmas (the practice of delayed gratification).
We also include others: neighbor kids, housemates (we live in a communal household) and houseguests.