I vaguely remember participating in Advent during a few minutes worth of a Church service as a child. It was different from my regular thrilling traditions of Santa and family and gifts. I didn’t quite understand it, but I do remember being intrigued by the sacredness of the candle ceremony.
Once married, with children on the way, it was time to decide what traditions my husband and I would introduce to our new family. He grew up without the game of Santa and I agreed to not use it with our children, albeit a bit grudgingly at first. But if not Santa, then what? It was then that I stumbled across a pamphlet from Focus on the Family, describing the tradition of Advent. It was instantly our new tradition.
The tradition grew, as traditions do and we now have a month full of memory-making traditions that glorify Christ. Though the month is full of activity, we’ve organized it so that it doesn’t feel rushed and there is plenty of rest and peace. We set aside our regular homeschool lessons and do Christmas School through the month of December. I created a website to share our Advent customs and our lessons plans with you, which you can find at Advent Ideabox. You’ll find all of the details you need on the site, but for now, I want to offer you a taste of what Advent is.
Advent is a season of hope and anticipation. The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”. During the Christmas season, we celebrate that Christ came to earth as our Saviour and we celebrate that He is coming again. We carry this celebration and anticipation throughout the year.
It begins each year, four Sundays before Christmas. Customarily, the Sundays are marked with the lighting of four candles, each representing a precious aspect of the season. These candles are usually found in a wreath. My family likes to read from a fictional series called Jotham’s Journey each evening and continue to light that week’s candle as we read the devotional verses at the end of each chapter.
The Hope Candle is lighted the first Sunday. It is also known as the Prophecy candle. These first week represents the purpose of the entire season: recognition that God kept His many promises regarding Christ’s first coming and that He will continue to keep His promises about Christ’s second coming. There is a hum of hope in the air.
The Love Candle is lighted the second Sunday. It is also called the Bethlehem Candle. We read each night of that week the prophecies regarding lowly Bethlehem, chosen as the birthplace of our King. We marvel that we, a lowly people, were chosen to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
The Joy Candle is lighted the third Sunday. It is also known as the Shepherd Candle. With Christmas drawing nearer, joy is inescapable. Advent turns our hearts toward God and reminds us that our Joy comes from Him. We rejoice not in what we are getting, but in what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do.
The Peace Candle is lighted the fourth SundayIt is also known as the Angel Candle. We chuckle at the name because each of the stories we read of messages from an angel seem to begin with a moment of fear, rather than peace. We marvel that peace is possible in the midst of chaos, in the midst of the unknown. We marvel at the peace of God which passes all understanding.
The Christ Candle is the final candle. It is usually lighted on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. We leave this candle, and what is left of all the others, burning while we read the birth story from the book of Luke.
These rituals are flexible. Some nights, we scramble to read three chapters because Christmas parties and exhaustion throw us off schedule. Some years, my husband worked evening shift and we did our reading in the mornings.
During the week, we sometimes cancel all subjects, focusing only on the lessons from Advent IdeaBox. Other years, we try to work half-days to keep up in math and grammar. This generally leaves us feeling rushed, so we try to keep that schedule relaxed. By the time it is finished, the kids are usually eager to get back into a routine, so the only one complaining about schoolwork is mom.
It’s not perfect and we never manage to fit in all of the things that I’d like to include, but we do manage to remember why we’re doing what we’re doing. And that’s the only thing that matters, really.
Jenn has blogged for many years at White Trash Mama, but can now be found writing at Simblissity Cottage where she journals about the process of Simple and the bliss that it brings. She is, however, addicted to books, which complicates her attempts to live a simple and uncluttered lifestyle. Jenn is a homeschooling mom who loves her 4 children, adores her geek-husband, and despises her dog.