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Sharing Advent in Community

03 Dec Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Sharing Advent in Community
Sharing Advent in Community
 

Adding Advent to Our Family Traditions

I love the holiday season!  Even as I am write memories of great family traditions from my childhood are filling my mind – hot chocolate, lights, White Christmas, and Lionel trains.  Over the years my family and I have enjoyed forming our own family traditions as well.  In recent years, we have added the observance of Advent to our family tradition as a way of preparing to celebrate the coming of the Messiah.  This practice has become one of the deepest, richest experiences for our family.

Traditionally, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas (This year, it began yesterday on December 2nd).  It marks a season of time in which we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of the Messiah.  Advent is commonly broken into four weeks of preparation concluding on Christmas day with the culmination of our waiting and anticipating.

A few years back, we decided to add an Advent wreath with five candles to our practice.  It’s typically made by forming evergreen trimmings into a wreath, place four candles around the wreath and a fifth candle in the middle. Throughout the advent seasons, the four outer candles are lit on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and then the center and fifth candle being lit on Christmas morning. There’s something special in leaving candles unlit during the month of December. It doesn’t feel complete. We’re left longing for more, and so embody the waiting for Christ’s birth.

Celebrating in Community

In addition to the Advent wreath, Naomi and decided to incorporate community into our new family tradition. Each Sunday of Advent, we decided to invite key individuals and their families to share a meal, a spiritual practice, and the lighting of each outer candle.  These people included key mentors who have poured into our lives, deep friends who we are doing life alongside, and special friends whom we simply wanted to bless.

At each candle lighting, we took time to express to those we invited words of thanks for what their relationship has meant to us as a family throughout the years.  These moments have come to be very special for all of us.

A Way of Preparation

The following dates are the Sundays leading up to Christmas.  Could observing Advent be a way for you to prepare your soul for the celebration of the coming Messiah this year?  Perhaps it’s even an opportunity to intentional create a new family tradition. If you were to invite key people to join you in this observance, who would they be?

  • 1st Sunday – December 2nd – Lighting of candle one
  • 2nd Sunday – December 9th – Lighting of candle two
  • 3rd Sunday – December 16th – Lighting of candle three
  • 4th Sunday – December 23rd  – Lighting of the fourth candle

As I reflect on my family’s experience observing Advent these past few years, three healthy practices start to emerge. We don’t always capture then perfectly, but they’re now part of our family tradition each year.

  • Consumerism is balanced by simplicity…
    A reminder of God’s generosity and true celebration
  • Individualism is balanced by community…
    A reminder that the Messiah came for all
  • Service is balanced by personal worship…
    A reminder to those in full time ministry

I hope you’re able to truly enjoy the next four weeks and prepare your soul for the celebration of the coming Messiah.

Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.