Advent is the four-week period before Christmas that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent means coming or arrival. This period in the Christian worship calendar is filled with expectancy and leads up to December 25 when believers rejoice in the Son of God who came near. Advent reflects the anticipation that was present throughout redemptive history. This longing continued and culminated the night when Jesus Christ was birthed into the world. To His glory, God was faithful to His promise and sent the eternal Son. God took on flesh and dwelt among us. His name is Immanuel, meaning "God with us." His coming has satisfied the longing of our hearts and gives us peace in God's presence. When we celebrate Advent today, believers remember the divine drama, God's plan of redemption. Meaningful traditions reenact the expectancy of Old Testament believers while looking forward to Jesus' second advent when He will come again to restore all things.
Jesse Tree and Scripture Reading
The Tree of Jesse is a meaningful tradition to implement during the Advent season. Through picture ornaments placed on the branches, a Jesse Tree follows the lineage of Jesus and the biblical events leading up to His birth. The name of this decorative tree comes from Isaiah 11. This Scripture prophesizes the coming of Jesus Christ. You can find the ornaments for a Jesse Tree online or make your own. Each day of advent, you place a picture ornament on the branch. Afterward, you can read the devotional or biblical passage accompanying the picture. For instance, one of the symbols is a sheep with a shepherd's staff. This image represents when God selected David to be king over the nation of Israel. David, youngest son of Jesse, was a shepherd boy who then was anointed as king. Following this image, read 1 Samuel 16:1-15, and reflect on how Jesus too was of a modest background, yet God set Him apart to be King of Kings. Like a shepherd watching his flock, Jesus cares for His sheep, and as our Lord and King, He leads us with a servant heart.
Candles and Carols
Advent candles are another important element to add to your traditions. Advent candles are typically purple, pink, and white symbolizing the majesty, beauty, and purity of Christ. There are four candles, and each captures a certain theme: hope, peace, joy, and love. Lighting candles symbolizes that Jesus came as light into a dark world and illuminated the path to God. Singing carols while lighting the candle makes this moment more meaningful as the song lyrics further echo the advent themes. For the first week of advent, light the hope candle. As you watch the flame dance, you might sing the carol, "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." Then, on the three following weeks, light the peace, joy, and love in this order. On the third week, singing a carol like "Joy to the World" would make this moment sweet for rejoicing in the Lord's salvation. Walk through The Daily Grace Co.'s Hymns for Advent for song ideas, and study how they reflect biblical truth.
Fasting and Prayer
Scholars note that early Christians often fasted during the Advent season and ended their fast with a festival dedicated to the Lord's birth. With distractions stripped away, fasting produces a focused attention on God and new desire for Him. Fasting, whether abstaining from food or cutting off social media, puts the body and mind in a state of dependence. Instead of giving in to the normal routine, we are aware of our need for God and lean on Him for sustenance. During these times, our prayers are more fervent, and we are guided to Scripture. Fasting and prayer during Advent cultivates a greater longing for complete union with God when Jesus returns and, through the Holy Spirit, a deeper satisfaction in His presence now. Set a designated time for fasting and prayer leading up to December 25, and break the fast with rich food and fellowship on Christmas Day.
Nativity Scene Preparation
Preparing elements that reenact the nativity scene are also meaningful ways to celebrate the coming of Jesus. During the four weeks of Advent, you can incrementally add these items to your home, creating an environment that is pregnant with expectation. An angel or star on top of the Christmas tree symbolizes the divine announcement of the Son of God. A model of a manger signifies the humble condition Jesus took upon himself. And gifts at the base of the tree or manger represent the luxurious offering to the King. Consider adding these prints to your nativity scene preparation for a beautiful advent tradition.