There are some easily accessible ways to keep Advent at home -- to help you slow down and notice the season. With some special attention to ritual, time, and your own awareness, Advent can become a special time of waiting on God in your life. But the season usually isn't that kind of special time of spiritual enrichment until we are intentional about a few things. Try some of these spiritual practices to help enrich both your experience and that of your family and church.
Advent Wreath Making - This is a popular practice in home of lighting a candle each night and praying before dinner - then adding a new candle each week. The object of the wreath and candles helps families to focus on the season. Here is a Advent Wreath Liturgy appropriate for your church. Here is a great explanation of the Advent Wreath with prayers for the home.
Pray Together: If this isn't a daily habit, use the season of Advent to start this practice of praying together as a family. It doesn't have to be fancy. If you don't have an Advent Wreath, then just light a candle and use a simple prayer. From the Book of Alternative Services from the Anglican Church in Canada, here is an Advent prayer for the home:
Leader: Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Those who follow me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
All: Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
Leader: Source of all light, send your Son Jesus Christ to shine in our dark world. Help us to prepare our hearts to receive him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
Share Stories: Advent is a great time to share stories - from your family history and experiences, what Christmas means to you, what are the wishes and expectations of each family member. Perhaps pull out some family heirlooms and talk about one every week. How are we connected to our past? Click here for more on sharing stories.
Read the Nativity Story: Pick a children's Bible, a favorite Christmas storybook, the Bible passage, or look at this Online Interactive Nativity story for a modern retelling. Perhaps watch a movie version of the story such as the Nativity Story, and discuss as a family.
Set Up a Nativity Scene or Creche: Create a special corner, almost a home altar space, where you set up the family nativity set. If you don't have one, make one. On Pinterest are all kinds of creative ways to make a creche. Check out my Advent Pinterest Page for some downloadable designs. I love this picture with the 3 kings moving one rock closer each day. It is both creche and Advent Calendar. Be sure to not put the Baby Jesus out until Christmas Eve.
Serve Together: Pick a service project, or several, to do together as a family. It gets the focus off "stuff" and on to helping others. But more than that - it is a chance for families to do something meaningful together. If you want to pass on the value of service and outreach to your kids, this is a great way. Here is 24 Days of Random Acts and one mom's blog on Family Service projects in Advent to help you get started.
Combine some of all of this in the Family Advent Calendar: Here is an easy way to talk, pray, serve, and count down the time to Christ's birth. The Rev. Thomas Mousin, St. John's, Charlestown, has created a lovely downloadable Advent Calendar suitable for everyone.
May you have a blessed Advent,
Amy Cook is the Missioner for Education, Formation and Discipleship for the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. She works with 185 churches in Eastern Massachusetts in the area of Christian formation for all ages.
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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