There are many different ways Western Christians observe Advent but they all have the same intent: to focus our minds and hearts on the reason we celebrate Christmas.
Observed over the four weeks leading up to Christmas, Advent is a time of both remembering and waiting. We remember how the Hebrews waited for the birth of the Messiah and we wait with expectancy for Christ’s second coming.
While not every Christian denomination formally observes Advent, it is a special opportunity to get in tune with what the season really means. So whether you participate in Advent as part of your worship practice or incorporate it into your family holiday traditions, here are a few creative ideas for observing Advent this year.
Prepare for Christmas with daily Advent Scripture readings
Find an Advent Scripture reading plan and follow it to help you better understand and reflect on the significance of Jesus’ birth. Here are a few reading plans to get started.
- Christmas Foretold: An Advent Journey through the Prophecies and Person of Christ
- Advent Scripture Readings for Christmas
- Advent Bible Verses
Read or pray through an Advent devotional
Similar to reading Advent-themed Scripture, Advent devotionals help us focus on Jesus during this busy season. Here are a few online devotional suggestions for the first week of Advent.
- Good News of Great Joy
- Billy Graham’s Advent Devotion, Week 1: Preparing to Celebrate Christ’s Birth
- Advent Devotional (Week 1): Faith
Listen to Advent music
Music has a way of focusing our inner selves like nothing else, so a wonderful way to observe Advent is through listening to music. When selecting Advent music, choose songs with lyrics that mirror the season of waiting for and expecting the second coming of Christ. The examples below suggest both traditional hymns and popular Christmas music.
Light candles on an Advent wreath
Filled with symbolism, the evergreen and pinecone wreath has five candles, which are lit at specific times during the Advent season. Along with lighting the candles, a portion of the Christmas story is often read aloud, culminating on Christmas Eve with Jesus’ birth. Here are a few examples of how to observe this tradition.
- Advent Wreath & Candles: Understanding the Meaning, History & Tradition
- What Is the Advent Wreath?
- History and Symbolism of the Advent Wreath
Make and light a Christingle
Translating to “Christ Light,” a Christingle is a symbolic decoration consisting of an orange, a candle, a red ribbon and dried fruit. This can be a meaningful family activity to help children understand the season.
Keep an Advent calendar
These special calendars count the days of Advent, although many now begin at December 1 regardless of the actual first day of Advent. Children look forward to the popular chocolate calendars, but Advent calendars can take many forms ranging from wooden boxes to fabric hanging pockets. Whatever form it takes, the point of an Advent calendar is to mark the passing days in anticipation of Christmas.
Put up a Chrismon tree
While this is similar to a Christmas tree in that it’s an evergreen, Chrismon trees often only have clear lights and its decorations are made from Christian symbols in white and gold.
Put up a Christmas tree or set up Christmas decorations
While some people wait until Christmas Eve to decorate, others use Christmas themes to observe Advent and anticipate the celebration of Christmas. The main thing to keep in mind is to avoid celebrating Christmas through the season but instead spend time preparing for the celebration on December 25.
Another way to prepare for Christmas is to participate in a hanging of the greens ceremony. This can be done in conjunction with putting up a tree or other seasonal decorating and can be done in the home or at a church or other building.
- Hanging of the greens
- A Creative Service Outline for Hanging of the Greens
- What is the “Hanging of the Greens?”
Attend regular Advent services at a local church
Observing Advent in community can be a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas. Find a church offering Advent services and experience the duality of Advent in a new way.
Spend time serving others
Because this is a season of giving, it makes sense to participate in service projects or programs during Advent. This can be done through volunteering at charities, donating to non-profits or helping out in other ways.
This year, why not try one or two of these ideas to help you better focus on Jesus amid the holiday rush. However you choose to observe this season, take time to prepare internally for the true meaning of Christmas.