Ingredients for Advent

I love the shape of this season. I love creating Christmas around our house (new house this year- yay!), in my shopping lists, on my music players, with my kids, and most important but least urgent- in my heart.

To put Advent- the part of the Christian year that coincides with the American reality of Christmas, into my life, there are certain ingredients required. IMG_3894

To Make Advent: 

2-10 people        Gather a community of friends, family, or anyone who might drop in for dinner

5 candles            One for each week and one for Christmas Day.

1 Dark Room     This is key. Turn off the lights. Light the candle. Read, talk, and pray with the darkness impinging on the  candle’s light as it gathers strength week by week.

1 reading             A book or guide with scripture. This year we are using Seeking the Christmas Lamb- available here on Kindle   which is great for adults or families with kids.

1 interaction      A question to discuss, a sticker to apply, an ornament to hang, a bead to twist, or a way to play in the reading. Essential for kids                                   AND adults

1 prayer                Letting God know we’re open to hearing, listening, waiting, and being still

Extra ingredients:

  • Chaos-   because doing Advent around a family meal, with another Christmas event later that evening, with tired kids, crying newborns, or busy parents, make for anything but peace. Peace coming into chaos is the way God works so the more chaos you endure the closer you are to the heart of the story anyways.
  • New readers– This year the Bible gets passed around to one more person- Andi can read as well as Eli! This means extra patience, holding a burning candle close to your small child, and discipline to not interrupt or over-correct. Again- this is getting us closer and closer to a more Christ-like Christmas- extra patience, space for small children to lead us, and a restraint on our desire to control.
  • Extra awareness- A daily family advent practice is one part of shaping my soul around Christmas. I also desire to read, pray, and sit in God’s presence intentionally in my own spaces of solitude. With the intelligent, creative and spiritual emphasis on celebrating Advent at my church, and some Advent resources I turn to year after year, (Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas; Orbis Publishing, and Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God, by Bobby Gross) I attempt to balance the commerce, the Christmas parties, and the chatter of children with the Christ that came to change it all.

Here is one Advent quote from Nouwen on waiting with hope (not control) and a prayer I wrote to go along with it.

Much of our waiting is filled with wishes… ‘I wish I would have……[I wish this would end]…’. We are full of wishes and our waiting gets entangled in those wishes. For this reason, a lot of our waiting is not open-ended. Our waiting is a way of controlling the future…we want to do the things that will make the desired events take place. Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears.

                But Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled, but fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes. Therefore, hope is always open-ended. ..Just imagine what Mary was actually saying in those words, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord…let what you have said be done to me’ (Luke 1:38). She was saying, ‘I don’t know what this all means, but I trust that good things will happen. She trusted so deeply that her waiting was open to all possibilities. ”[1]

 And so we pray:

with trepidation, with human wishes, with hope, with fear, because we have a hard time waiting,because we long for things to happen, because we want to glorify you, because we want others to see you. 

God, we pray because we know you hear us and we know you have come to us.

Jesus, thank you for coming to us and changing our lives.

Holy Spirit, help us to wait with hope for what God intends to bring to us and to bring us into this season and the next year.

We hope we see you more clearly and live with more light.  Amen.

[1] Henri Nouwen, “Waiting for God” in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, (Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2001). 


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