Advent begins tomorrow. This is the period of time that the Christian Church prepares for Christmas. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, and ends at midnight Christmas Eve.
Advent means “coming” and it refers to the first coming of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, 2000 years ago as a baby in Bethlehem.
Advent is a period of watchful waiting. The mood is somber, yet hopeful. The hushed anticipation is supposed to build until we celebrate Christmas Day (and continue to celebrate for Twelve Days–“Christmastime”). This annual waiting reminds Christians that we are now living in a period of waiting for Christ’s future Return–His Second Advent.
Churches (and individual households) often light a sequence of candles on each of the four Sundays of Advent. There are four candles arranged in a square around a larger fifth candle. The first Sunday you light the first candle. The second Sunday you light the first two candles. The third Sunday you light the first three candles. The fourth Sunday you light all four candles. Then, in the evening on Christmas Eve, you light all four candles, plus the larger central candle–the Christ Candle.
Our church celebrates a Candlelight Service in the evening of Christmas Eve. Each participant is given a personal candle. At the end of the service, the ushers light their candles by the Christ candle, come down the rows, and then each person lights their candle by their neighbor’s. We sing Silent Night and the room is aglow. I love it.
Personally, I enjoy reading an Advent Devotional during these weeks of waiting. We also like doing this as a family. Here are some recommendations (if you click the titles it will take you to Amazon):
Sally Lloyd Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is great for all ages. There are twenty-four readings from the beginning of the Biblical story up to the Birth of Christ. If you’re new to the faith, or unfamiliar with the Bible–I definitely recommend starting here–even if you’re a grownup. The writing is engaging and the illustrations are delightful.
Kevin DeYoung, The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden. This is another whole-Bible summary appropriate for all ages. Gorgeous illustrations.
Devotionals (daily readings):
Paul David Tripp, Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional.
Finally, my choice for 2020 (this is not a daily reader, but it’s short–a manageable length for Advent devotions):
Timothy Keller, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ.
If you end up using any of these, or if you have recommendations, I’d love to hear from you! May the Lord meet with you in a special way this Advent Season.