Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Illuminating Advent

Advent begins this Sunday.
As a child I never really understood much about Advent. Mr. Steady and I decided that we would teach Advent to our children so they would have a deeper understanding of this special season; to help them understand that Christmas is more than presents.
Over the years we have developed our own Advent traditions from the different activities, books and ideas we've used.
I wrote a bit about Advent in this post last year.

This year we will be using a family Advent devotional provided by our church. We are doing a series called Illuminate in our church- through our Sunday School studies and sermon series and this devotional comes along side all that and takes families deeper into Advent.

In past years we have read through Arnold Ytreeide's Advent Series.

There are three books. You read one each year, with each book telling one child's [fictional] side of the Christmas story. There is so much wonderful adventure in these tales- a cliffhanger every night!  Tabitha is our favorite. How these books work: there is an Advent calender in the back of the book that breaks down Advent by the year (it starts on a different Sunday each year) and shows you what to read each day for the five weeks of Advent. Our children always beg us to read farther and in the past, I've caught Mr. Steady reading ahead...
We look forward to reading through the entire series again but will set it aside this year as we use the Illuminate family devotional. Here's the write up on Amazon for Illuminate:
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Advent is the beginning of the Christian year-- a time for hopeful anticipation. A search for hope, love, joy and peace. through this 5-week devotional for families, small groups, and faith communities, experience the light of Christ as it breaks into the darkness of a lost world. With fellow brothers and sisters, engage in scripture, storytelling, prayer and interactive group activities, as you journey through this Advent experience."
Mr. Steady and I are excited about using this devotional because of the group experience aspect. We have celebrated Advent with our children since they were itty bitty but never in such a corporate way.
In the introduction, the author, Paul Sheneman, states: "This guide is designed to help local churches disciple... families through the Advent season. An important emphasis in this guide is that each household is called to be a little church or missionary outpost. In other words, every family is to become an expression of the family of God."
This devotional is all about connecting; connecting a family to each other and to this celebration and in turn connecting each family to the church family and corporate celebration, while emphasizing a need to reach out to those who are alone... stating that no one should celebrate Advent alone.
This devotional is not designed to add one more "to-do" to your holiday list. The author shares his desire that each family adapt the experience to how it would best work for them. Perhaps your children are very small and reading lengthy scriptures won't work for you this year. That's okay. There is so much offered in this slim volume that I really believe everyone can find a little something or a lotta something to add to their Advent experience.
I can't stress enough how perfect this book is for "first-timers" who have never really, truly celebrated Advent before-- those that aren't really sure what Advent is all about besides lighting candles in a wreath on Sundays. Advent is so much more and this book breaks it down into manageable bite size pieces that families can not only digest but grow through. Each week begins on Sunday with a "Prepare for Worship" section that introduces the candle and it's meaning for that week. Week day devotionals include scripture to read, suggestions of family projects and activities to give a hands-on experience and wonderful easy to read explanations of the symbols of Advent for better understanding.

Here on the homestead, we are discussing how we want to do our Advent wreath. There are many great ideas to be found on the internet- just Google "homemade Advent wreath" or "make your own Advent wreath". We have done a traditional wreath with taper candles and we have done a paper wreath taped to the wall.... This year I am leaning towards the simple- just votives and some evergreens. Hopefully I'll be able to share a picture here soon.
We will also use our Jesse Tree. Our ornaments are printed from Ann Voscamp's A Jesus Advent Celebration (another wonderful and FREE resource!). We won't be using the devotional, as we are doing Illuminate but we will hang an ornament each evening and discuss it's meaning.

May God guide us all through this Advent season
and may He open each of our eyes to the joyous wonder
that surrounds us. May Christ illuminate our dark world
this Christmas and light up our hearts in such a way
as the darkness cannot hide.


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