Several years ago, I unpacked a blue rubber box bursting with Christmas décor. Like the majority of my tchotchkes, they are hand-me-downs from my grandma. While most of the trinkets were holiday traditionals like wooden reindeer, glittery angels, and an old-fashioned Santa, stuck down in the bottom of the box was a metal, silver-colored Advent wreath.
Admittedly, I had no true understanding of Advent despite attending a denominational church that celebrated Advent each Christmas season. I can still recall sitting in the creaky, wooden pew when I was a little girl and watching a family walk up on the platform each week to read a Bible verse and light a candle. That’s about as far as my knowledge extended.
But for some reason, that particular year I felt compelled to understand Advent more. I did some studying, and I also found a Christmas devotional online. I bought a $3 package of Advent candles and stuck them in the holders (using a little Scotch tape to keep them upright). Each night, my husband would light a candle and read the devotional, and we’d pray together with our two sons–ages one and two at the time. I’d take a quick photo of the boys in their jammies next to the illuminated wreath and then we’d tuck the boys in bed (until they got out of bed...so we tucked them in tighter).
Two more boys later (for a grand total of four–and no, we’re not trying for a basketball team or for a girl), we’re now approaching our fourth Christmas celebrating Advent (the saaa-weet news is: I've written a verse-by-verse devotional for the 2017 Advent season so you can join us!). In Latin, Adventus means “coming,” and this is where we derive our English word Advent. While “Advent” isn’t found directly in Scripture, we are reminded by Paul in Philippians 3:20 (NIV) to “eagerly await a Savior [from heaven].” In context, Paul was speaking of Jesus’ second coming, not His birth, but this is why Advent has a dual meaning for believers today. We not only have the blessing of celebrating His birth, but we look forward to His coming to take us to heaven with Him. Maranatha (come, Lord Jesus)!
In our home, we use Advent as an opportunity to keep ourselves intentionally fettered to the Messiah, despite the mayhem. America has done a marvelous job marketing the holiday gift-giving and food while being tragically surrounded by death, pain, and sin. This world is desperate for Christ, but doesn’t even know it. As believers, we should be burdened for the lost (Romans 9:1—5) and be a light to a dark world. There’s nothing more this world needs than to know Christ and to have Him rooted deeply within the soul. May we boldly proclaim our Lord Jesus Christ though out the year, but may we also not fail to use this sacred season to renew our spirit in Him.
Structuring Your Time
There’s no formula or configuration for how to best celebrate Christ. That’s the beauty of worship: God didn’t specify how to worship; He simply provided Scriptural examples of worship. In John 4:24, we’re told to worship in Spirit and in truth. What a relief to know we don’t need to make this a legalistic list of to-dos! This Advent study of Christ’s birth and salvation isn’t designed to dictate–it was prayerfully created to guide you in establishing cherished time to reflect on Christ Jesus.
For the majority of the days, we’ll be in the book of either Matthew or Luke, studying the verse-by-verse story of Jesus’ birth. Toward the end of Advent, we’ll glean from a few verses that speak to the character of Christ Jesus, the wickedness of mankind, Jesus’ righteousness, and the merciful gift of His grace.
If you’re new to verse-by-verse studies, it’s an edifying approach for the following reasons:
- We are to proclaim the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV)—not just pieces and parts.
- Verses are left in context and each verse can be considered in light of the surrounding verses.
- It allows us to stay focused on one emphasis over a period of time as opposed to jumping from topic to topic.
- It encourages you to do your own Bible study. You don’t have to be a pastor or teacher to study the Word!
Each day there is a reading (in the New International Version, unless otherwise noted), reflection, and response. Again, my encouragement to you is to make the reflection and response your own. What I’ve penned is scripted from my heart to yours; you must then choose to ponder its application for yourself.
For households or fellowships with wee ones, I’ve included a brief Tot Time section, which consists of explanations and/or questions to help reinforce the Scripture. It’s imperative to not dilute the Gospel when teaching children. Help them listen to the Bible verse, just as you would, and then work with them to clarify. We’re prompted in Deuteronomy 6:7 to teach God’s Word to the children, talking about it when we sit at home, walk around, lie down, and wake up.
You can choose to read these thoughts each day without an Advent wreath. It’s not the material we use that matter, but the motive of our heart. However, if you do use Advent candles, I will share with you the meaning of each of the candles, and the order in which you can light them:
· Week One (starts December 3): Light a purple Advent candle. Purple signifies expectation and hope. It calls attention to the fact that God is our Hope, Redeemer, and Savior.
· Week 2 (starts December 10): Light the original purple candle, plus one more purple candle. The second candle signifies preparation and peace. We are to prepare our hearts to accept the grace and peace of God through Jesus Christ.
· Week 3 (starts December 17): Light the two purple candles from previous weeks, plus the pink candle. Pink signifies proclamation and joy. Proclaim His Truth and as it says in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lords always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
· December 24: Light the two purple candles, the pink candle, and the last purple candle. The final purple candle signifies revelation and peace. We celebrate the announcement of our King, Jesus Christ, and the greatness of His love. He sacrificed all for our eternal peace with Him.
· December 25: On Christmas morning, light all the candles. If you have a white candle (which doesn’t typically come in the pack of Advent candles), you can light one. White represents the spotless nature of Christ and reminds us how He washed our sin away.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Christ this season, let the Messiah–not the mayhem–reign in your heart. May you be richly blessed in Him!