Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Advent Wreath (A Family Christmas Tradition)

Ever since Heather and I were married in 2001, we plopped an Advent Wreath on the center of our table each year. We searched for Bible verses to read each year, sometimes with success and sometimes without. But by the time the next year rolled around, we’d lose the verses and need to start over. Even searching the Internet proved fruitless. Sometimes we didn’t like the suggested verses, sometimes we just couldn’t find any verses at all, and sometimes different people disagreed about the order and the meaning of the candles.

Nevertheless, we longed for a consistent tradition that would help our family focus on Jesus Christ all during the Christmas season.

So, I finally bit the bullet, and spent a Saturday morning—long before Advent actually rolled around but not before advertisers could start promoting the holiday shopping season—combing through the best of what we and others have done with the Advent Wreath.

Our wreath has four candles around the outside and one tall one in the middle. Heather has written the words hope, peace, joy, and love on the four outside candles, and the word Christ on the center candle. This helps our small children to remember the symbolism of each candle.

We light that week’s candle each time we sit down for a meal together, and we read that week’s verses and Bible story at least once during the week, sometimes multiple times. The kids see the Advent Wreath tradition at church each week, but it’s great for them to see it at home as well. (Plus, they love the fire and smoke. They are boys, after all.) The wreath is also a great way to open up the floor for questions our kids might have about the Christmas story or Jesus Christ.

The First Candle—The Candle of Prophecy/Hope
This candle symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered as messages from God. The birth of the Messiah or Christ would bring hope for the whole world.

Key Verses:
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Christmas Story Reading:
Luke 1:5-25

The Second Candle—The Candle of Peace
This candle reminds us that Jesus comes to bring peace to both the world and to people’s hearts. Without Christ, there is no peace in this world.

Key Verses:
Isaiah 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Christmas Story Reading:
Luke 1:26-38

The Third Candle—The Candle of Joy
This candle indicates that the only lasting joy to be found in life is through Christ. All other joy is fleeting and does not last.

Key Verses:
Isaiah 9: 2-3 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness,
a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice when dividing the plunder.

Luke 2:8-11 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

Christmas Story Reading:
Luke 1:39-66

The Fourth Candle—The Candle of Love
This candle proclaims that God’s heart is full of love for his sinful creation. His love and desire to share his glory with his creation are the reasons he sent Jesus to earth.

Key Verses:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Psalm 98:1-3 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

Christmas Story Reading:
Luke 1:67-80

The Fifth Candle—The Christ Candle
This candle represents Christ himself, who is born to save people from their sins. It is a celebration of the fulfillment of prophecy as represented in Christ’s birth and hope in the final fulfillment when Christ comes again and Christians join him in heaven.

Key Verses:
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Luke 2:13-14 Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising  God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Christmas Story Reading:
Luke 2:1-20

Other Advent Ideas:
Another tradition that Heather and I started was watching a portion of The Nativity Story movie each week. We broke up the 101 minute movie into four sections and watch some each Sunday night. (You might want to be careful with the scenes centering around Herod’s murder of the babies of Bethlehem with your smaller kids. They are subtly filmed, but still might be frightening.)
Week 1—DVD chapters 1-7
Week 2—ch. 8-11
Week 3—ch. 12-15
Week 4—ch. 16-end

Some other movies you might want to watch for a Christmas family night: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, one of the adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (the Muppets version for younger kids, Jim Carrey’s action flick for older ones), the Veggie Tales Christmas movies, Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. All of these have great Christmas messages that are friendly for the younger ages. Heather and I make a holiday habit of watching Elf, The Family Man, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Family Stone. They may be less biblical than the ones we watch with the kiddos, but they are entertaining holiday films with solid messages behind them as well.

I hope some of these suggestions help you keep Christ at the center of your families this holiday season. Feel free to comment below with any great traditions you’d like to add.

1 comment:

Keiz said...

Great ideas, thanks for sharing! Just had to say it's ironic that there was an ad for the book of Mormon on the side of this post - made me laugh.