Did you celebrate Advent growing up?

It was not something I was familiar with until adulthood. But it has grown to be one of my favorite parts of the year.

During the typically hectic holiday season, I feel how difficult it is to actually engage myself into celebrating Christ’s arrival with us. Between all the fun (and sometimes less fun) activities like shopping, decorating, hosting, cooking, and wrapping, I lose my focus on Christ if I am not intentional. Keep Christ in Christmas, right?

Enter Advent! Celebrated for centuries by Christians around the world, Advent is a four-week cycle to focus you on the story of Christ’s first coming, and point with great joy to His final return.

The name comes from the Latin ‘adventum’ = arrival/coming, and can be celebrated in a variety of ways. We typically do a mix of fun activities with simple Bible study for the kids, and my husband and I enjoy walking through an Advent devotional together (my tips for using them at the end).

What is Advent?

Advent investigates these four big themes:

Week 1 — Hope

The people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.

Matthew 4:16

Let the light shine in the darkness! God has filled His word with references to Christ as the Light of the World. And there are many great ways to engage your family in celebrating His light. Like the earliest moments of a sunrise, His light gives us true hope for the future.

Week 2 — Peace

Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favors!

Luke 2:14

When we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Peace between God and us, peace between us and our own hearts, peace between us and our family, peace between us and the neighbor next door. There’s so much to celebrate!

Week 3 — Love

No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

We love because He first loved us. Isn’t this what we want to teach our hearts? I want my children to understand love this way — God loved us first, so now there is love inside us to share with others. Can you think of any other way to celebrate Christ’s coming than expressing that love to others?

Week 4 — Joy

“Daughter Zion, shout for joy and be glad, for I am coming to dwell among you”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on that day and become my people. I will dwell among you, and you will know that the Lord of Armies has sent me to you.”

Zechariah 2:10-11

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” (Did you know this is actually a song about Christ’s second coming?) In the final days leading up to Christmas, joy should overflow from us because of Christ’s great and glorious promises. Celebrate with great joy because we know the Joy-Bringer!

How to Celebrate Advent

#1 — Plan ahead

Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas, usually just after Thanksgiving. So start looking ahead in October or early November. That way you have time to pick a study resource and gather activities for your family to enjoy together. I’ve pulled together a list of my favorite Advent resources to help you get started.

If you know me, you know I am not a person who goes halfway. At least since kindergarten I have been someone who wanted to do all the things, all the way. This can be great, but also can lead me to overdo it.

A few years ago I tried to do two different Advent countdowns with the kids, and two daily devotionals because I just couldn’t narrow it down. I learned my lesson when I was weary and tired before finishing week three.

You know your family, your schedule, and your own heart. Keep watch over these parts of your life by planning only what you can actually accomplish with a joy-filled heart. Start small — you can always do more next year.

#2 — Make it meaningful

As you follow your Advent plan, remember the purpose of your activities is to still your heart, focus your mind, and deepen your relationship with God and others. You can have a ton of fun family activities (indoor snowball fights, anyone?) only to realize at the end that you haven’t actually grown in Christ.

Let the priorities of Advent push out things that are good but not great.

Make time daily to read the Bible and carve out time to pray. If you have kids, be sure you connect the dots for them between the activity and the meaning.

Keep watch over yourself and your family by meditating on the meaning behind what you do this season.

#3 — Keep it personal

Christmas is not about you or me. It’s about Christ’s coming, and His promised return. Who do you know who needs this hope? Which of your neighbors is struggling this Christmas because they don’t have peace? How can you bring joy to those in your influence — especially those who do not know Jesus?

If you bake cookies, take a plate next door. If you write cards, address one for the neighbor you don’t know very well. If you host a party, invite the families on your kid’s soccer team.

Make this a season of generous living. I love this encouragement from scripture:

“Now the one who provides seed for the sower and bread for food will also provide and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God,” (2 Corinthians 9:10-12).

As you give, watch God provide the increase. Give generously in whatever way the love of Christ compels you.

On the flip side, make it personal for your heart too.

Make time to meditate on the goodness of God displayed in Christ’s humble birth with us. Confess sins you’ve struggled with this year. Invite someone to help you if you’re overwhelmed. Cancel something that was important but too much. Allow thanksgiving to abound in your heart as you make room for Christ to fill your heart.

If you want to truly appreciate Christ’s birth, remember to look ahead to his death, resurrection, ascension, and return. Because it’s all part of the same big story. Keep watch, friends. May this Advent season be the best ever!


Sign up to receive my latest encouragement, plus exclusive reviews and more!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.


Sign up to receive my latest encouragement, plus exclusive reviews and more!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.