5 Simple Ways to Observe Advent

The lights glimmered through the darkened room. Red, green, and blue orbs of hope. This year’s Fraser Fir enchanted me with wonder—when “wonder” is often left to children waiting for Santa.

But I think we all need more wonder.

We’ve been through a lot this year—lost jobs, lost loved-ones, lost peace.

Advent arrives as a reminder that something better is on its way.

This season invites us to marvel in the Light in the midst of darkness, like evergreen branches strung with glowing bulbs.

Through church history, Advent (derived from the Latin word, “Adventus”, which means “coming”), [1] was a time of reflection and repentance in preparation for Christmas and also for the Second Coming of Christ as Judge at the Last Day.[2]

These days, Advent practices sometimes get replaced with distracting activities.

We hurry to bake the shortbread, build the gingerbread house, drive through the light display. But inwardly our souls are screaming, “Rest! Don’t rush!”

And this year, with so much merriment postponed, maybe—just maybe—it can become the most Advent-ful year.

But, how can we observe Advent without adding to our hurry?

2 Simple Ways to Observe Advent

Here are 5 simple Advent practices that won’t add to the rush.

1. Follow a reading plan.

Download the Bible App on your smart phone and pick an Advent reading plan. With reflections in your pocket, you are sure to find a few moments in your day to digest the Word and think about the meaning of the season. This year I am following the Advent Chai with Malachi (free on the Bible App) and reading daily reflections from various writers curated at Christianity Today (you can access on your smart phone web browser).

2. Listen to Christmas Hymns.

Spotify, You Tube—there are so many ways to listen to music these days. Christmas Hymns spread holiday cheer, but also focus our hearts on the beauty and impact of Christ’s first coming. And you can listen while you work! Like during that midnight gift wrapping session.

3. Journal with focus.

Reflecting on the meaning of the season can be a powerful practice. Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • Think about “Emmanuel” (God with us). Write your thoughts about the truth that the God of the universe came as a baby in order to redeem humanity.
  • Write a birthday letter to Jesus.
  • If Christ were to return today, are you ready to see him? What might you want to stop doing/start doing before he returns?
  • God is our Wonderful Counselor. What do you need his wisdom in right now?
  • What are you longing for God to retore when he returns?

4. Light an Advent wreath.

Christians have lighted wreaths donning four candles, once for each Sunday in Advent, largely since the beginning of the twentieth century.[3] The lighting is usually a part of Scripture reading and/or hymn singing and each candle represents a different focus of the time leading up to Christmas. You can read more about the practice here. This year, I am using the family advent readings from here[4].

5. Reflect and look forward.

Take some time during the Advent season to consider your ways. Look back over the year, the last few years, your life story. What do you see? What needs letting go of or embracing? Then, looking forward, what needs to change or remain for you to follow Jesus well this next year?

No matter how you decide to practice Advent, may it prepare your heart for Christ’s return.

QUESTION: What is one Advent practice you enjoy?

This post first appeared on SeanaScott.org.

[1] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 25.

[2] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 21.

[3] Brett Scott Provance, Pocket Dictionary of Liturgy & Worship, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 14.

[4] Please note: Not all resources I link to are from places I agree 100% with their theology, but I think the resources will benefit my readers (and myself).

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