Christmas

Preparing for Advent-Part 2

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By Mike Littleton

I can remember Christmas as a child like it was yesterday. My two younger sisters and I would wake up around 3:00 a.m. to go see the large pile of presents under the tree, and in the dark stillness of the night, we’d open our stockings. I guess this was our own little tradition. We’d then go back to sleep until about 5:30 a.m. at which time we’d do our best to gently nudge (not really though) our parents out of bed so we could open up everything else.

There was no day throughout the year so eagerly anticipated like the coming of like Christmas Day.

Though my experience misses the point of Christmas entirely, and the Advent season, in particular, it does get to the heart of what the Advent is about–anticipation

What is Advent?

The word “advent” is derived from the latin adventus, and it simply means coming.

The advent season was not one originally associated with Christmas however. Scholars believe the earliest observances of advent were for a season of preparation before the baptism of new Christians. By the 6th century, it was a season observed primarily in light of Christ’s second coming, not his first. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that advent was specifically associated with Christmas.

Advent today continues to be tied to the Christmas season. The Advent season itself starts four Sundays before Christmas and can fall as soon as November 27th and as late as December 3rd. This year, Advent will start on Sunday, December 3rd.

The Advent season today is intended to cause us to look forward to Christ’s second coming, and also backward at his first coming. During the first two Sundays of Advent, we look forward to his Second coming, while the last two Sundays before Christmas we look back to and remember his first coming.

The whole season is intended to be one of reflection, remembrance, confession, and repentance. In many ways, Advent is intended to be observed similarly to Lent.

The Themes Of Advent

There are numerous themes one can find attached to the Advent season today. Traditionally, the themes of love, joy, peace, and hope are the most common themes. But I’ve also observed the Advent season with the themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. (These themes are found in an Advent devotional with the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

In some Advent traditions, candles and wreaths are used to represent various components of the Advent observance. The wreath is intended to symbolize the eternal nature of God, while the candles represent a myriad of different things depending on the historical tradition you’re reading.

Why you should consider observing Advent.

There’s a lot of differentiation with the Advent season, and different traditions observe it in their unique ways.

There are numerous ways you and your family can celebrate the Advent season. There are no hard and fast rules. You may even choose not to observe Advent. However, there is indeed great value in doing something to observe Advent–both in your home and in the local church.

The Christmas season in our culture is dominated by anything but stillness and meditation. Many of us dread this season because of the madness that comes along with it. Put simply, it’s easy for us to miss the point–the coming of Christ. Intentionally observing Advent, in whatever way you may choose to do so, may just be the thing that helps you, your family, and your church to slow down enough to see and treasure Jesus above anything else. And that is a good gift.

If you’ve never observed the full Advent season, I encourage you to do so this year. It’ll be awkward and perhaps difficult. But the reward will be great as you set your heart on the humble coming of Jesus thousands of years ago, as well as his future coming in power and glory.

Simply put, the reason we should observe Advent is that it helps to fix our attention where it ought to be fixed–on the Savior of the world.

In my next post, I’m going to share some of the things my family has done and what we’re hoping to do this year.

Preparing for Advent - Part 1

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 By Mike Littleton

The observance of Advent is still a relatively new practice for me and my family.

I grew up in a home that didn’t observe Advent. It wasn’t that we intentionally avoided it, we just didn’t really know about it.

I didn’t experience an emphasis on the Advent season in a local church until after I’d been a Christian for nearly 12 years. The churches I grew up in placed a lot of emphasis on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but Advent was never mentioned.

My first real exposure to Advent was when Abby and I moved to the south end of Seattle. We were members of Taproot Church Burien and our pastor took the church through a legitimate Advent series. We didn’t do any of the more traditional wreathe and candle-lighting stuff (more on that in the next post), but we did work through the traditional topics of love, joy, hope, and peace.

But I didn’t know how to emphasize the Advent season in my home–or even that I should possibly consider doing such a thing–until my wife and I saw our pastor and his family emphasize it in their home. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but we were at their house and they told us about how they gathered the whole family together every night to sing a song or two, talk about the coming of Jesus, and light candles they had placed in their front window. They would light the number of candles which corresponded with the day of the month.

Though I still didn’t really grasp what Advent was all about, what Abby and I learned that Advent season has made a lasting impact on our family. Every year since we’ve made some sort of an attempt to emphasize and observe the entire Advent season in anticipation of Christmas Day. It’s become such a part of what we do as a family that our kiddos look forward to observing Advent just as much as Christmas Day itself.

The Advent season is now just under a month away. Over the next week or two, I’m going to write a couple posts about what Advent is, some of the things my family has done, and what our plans are for Advent this year.

In the meantime, what has your experience with Advent been? Does your family observe Advent and if so how? I’d love to hear some feedback.

Christmas Eve

This is an exciting week for Taproot! Not only do we get to celebrate the birth of our King Jesus, but we're also having our first ever Christmas Eve Gathering! Below are some details about this special evening. 

Time and Location

We will be meeting at Twin Beans Coffee Co. located at 144 Main Ave S. The gathering begins at 5:30 p.m. and will end around 6:15.

Parking

We ask that you park around back and enter through the back door of the coffee shop. The staging area will be located at the front end of the shop, therefore, the front doors will be closed.

What To Expect

This special gathering will be family style. We love your kiddos, and we thoroughly enjoy their laughter and noises. We also believe there's no better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than with our little kiddos joining us.

You can expect a lot of good Christmas music, and you can also expect to hear the Christmas story read from various passages of Scripture. 

Finally, there will be coffee, Hot Cocoa, and Hot Apple Cider provided. If you'd like to bring cookies to share, feel free. 

We're looking forward to this fun evening and hope you can join us. 

Merry Christmas! 

 

Advent

Today is December 1st, which means the season of Advent is here! So I thought I would take a few minutes to give a brief background on what Advent is, and share some ideas of things you can do with your family this season in anticipation for Christmas day.

What Is Advent?

The word advent comes from the latin word adventus. It simply means coming. The season of Advent for the Christian is a season in which we look back on the anticipation that God's people had for the coming Messiah, Jesus, and which we anticipate the future coming of Jesus for his church. 1 Peter 1:10-12 is a description of what we look back on in this season.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or tie the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the suffering of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving no themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Christ has come. He has suffered. He has risen! 

The season of Advent occurs over the four Sundays prior to Christmas. This year, this landed on November 30th. The final Sunday will be December 21st. 

Typical during the Advent season is to focus on the themes of love, joy, peace, and hope. All things which are ultimately given to us in Christ. 

What do we do during Advent?

Though we have chosen not to rearrange our Sunday gatherings around Advent this year, it doesn't mean we aren't being reminded of the first coming of Jesus and anticipating his second coming. There are many things we can do in our homes to celebrate this season of Advent with our families.

So here are some ideas. 

Have Fun

It's all too easy to get the Scrooge bug into our blood. Advent evenings with the kiddos are generally chaotic and stressful, but though you may remember the chaos well, your kids probably won't. They'll remember the fun they had in those days leading up to Christmas.

Light Candles and Sing Songs

We've found this to be fun with little ones. For one, fire is always fascinating, and music is always appealing. In years past we've lit one candle every night leading up to Christmas, sang a Christmas song, and then let one of the kids snuff out the flames with the candle snuffer. It's simple, but they love it.

Read

There are so many well written Christmas stories out there. Spend time reading them with your kiddos. Also, read the bible. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contain the most in-depth accounts of the coming of Jesus. Take some time to read through them with your family. 

There's a ton of other resources too. This year we're taking our kiddos through the book Unwrapping The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. Her writing is beautifully poetic and does well at pointing you to Jesus. The book also has what's called a Jesse Tree project with it. 

John Piper has written a great Advent devotional. The content is a little more advanced and is well-suited for a family with kids who are a little older. 

Surprise Them

Who doesn't love surprises? Okay, maybe some of you don't, but your kids probably do. Don't be afraid to surprise them with something fun and totally out of the ordinary. Last year we got our kids in their pjs and all ready for bed only to load them up in the car with some warm hot chocolate to go drive around and see the Christmas lights around the neighborhood. It was work, but it was worth it to see their beaming smiles.

Anticipate Jesus

At the end of the day it doesn't really matter what you do so long as your anticipation is for Jesus. It seems every year becomes filled with more distractions, more deals, and more black Thursday's, Friday's, and Cyber Monday's. In light of this, it's important that we direct our attention all the more on the reality that God came down and was born as a baby in a manger. He lived a perfect life in our place, died a brutal death for the sins of humanity, and rose victoriously from the grave. Jesus is our gift. He has come and he will one day come again. This is worth anticipating!