Here it is December 6 and the Christmas season is well underway. Is it too late to start Advent? Not at all.
We can exhale fully because we aren’t behind. We didn’t miss out and it’s not too late to have a deep and meaningful Advent.
You don’t have to catch up and you don’t have to cram.
Right now, right where you are, you can till the soil of your own heart to embrace the gift of Christmas – Jesus, our Savior.
What is Advent?
John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord. To get the people of Israel ready for the birth of Jesus. In the same way, Advent helps us prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
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Because the truth is, we could do all the parties, decorate our house, get every gift mailed or wrapped under the tree and yet miss Jesus altogether.
Advent comes from the Latin meaning “arrival” stemming from the verb meaning “to come.” Advent anticipates the coming of Christ into the world to seek and save the lost. Advent marks not only His first coming, but reminds us we are waiting for His second coming.
Just as Lent is a season that precedes Resurrection Day, Advent was traditionally a period of fasting and reflection. Many churches traditionally celebrate Advent on the four Sundays before Christmas, which means that most years, the liturgical Advent calendar starts in late November or the first of December.
Maybe your church has already started its Advent celebration. Maybe you’re in a church, like me, that has no formal Advent celebration. The good news is that we can observe Advent at home, with our family, in a way that’s simple yet has profound impact.
3 Ways to Observe a Shorter Advent
In a December already busy with schooling at home, work, and the parties and preparation of Christmas, I find it difficult to fit in 25 readings or any kind of elaborate Advent. As a single mom and widow, I come into December with an overfull plate and I’m betting that’s true for most of us.
So I need an Advent for my family that helps us worship without adding an elaborate to-do to our schedule.
1.A 15-day Advent plan.
I wrote Countdown to Christmas, a family Advent devotional as a shorter, 15-day Advent plan. It’s Christ-centered and unwraps the full Christmas story from the prophecies of Jesus’ birth to the visit of the Magi in an open-and-go devotional. Countdown to Christmas can be used on its own or along with a manger scene you build one piece each day as you read about that correlating passage in scripture.
We can start Countdown to Christmas in early December with plenty of margin or start on December 10th and read one each day.This year, we’ll start our Countdown to Christmas on December 10 as we worship and wonder all over again at God’s infinite love given through Jesus.
2. Begin an Advent fast.
Traditionally, Advent was a period of both fasting and prayer, to prepare for the Christmas day feast celebrating Jesus’ birth. The fasting has fallen away and I wonder how much of our prayer has fallen with it.
Fasting helps us chisel out cravings to satisfy our flesh as we instead let God satisfy us spiritually. I’m writing this not because I’ve mastered fasting because I see how powerfully God used fasting in the Bible and I want that power in my own life.
Luke 2:36-38 tells us about Anna, the prophetess, who fasted and prayed in the temple for years as she worshipped and waited in the first Advent. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple as an infant, Anna was ready to recognize her Savior.
Fasting from a particular food, or even something like social media, helps us feast on Jesus and the reason for this season.
3. Read Luke 1 and 2.
A simple Advent can simply be reading Luke 1 and 2.
Luke 1 and 2 tell about the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we get so familiar with scripture passages we don’t let them impact our heart.
Here are a couple of ways to read Luke 1 and 2 with fresh eyes. Read the passages in different versions like the New Living Translation, Phillips translation, Common English or the Message.
Read the passage like you were making it into a movie and ask questions of your family:
What are the sounds and smells of Bethlehem?
What are the struggles, hopes and fears of a young, unmarried Jewish girl?
How would someone react to the sudden appearance of an angel or a heavenly host on a dark Judean hillside?
What kind of men were ancient shepherds?
Who was in Bethlehem and what kinds of things would distract them from celebrating Jesus’ birth?
What distracts us from celebrating Jesus’ birth.
And finally, read the passages every day from now till Christmas and ask God to continue to teach you more. It’s amazing how much God will unpack for you as you dig down deeper.
So we don’t have to catch up or double down on our Advent this year.
As I write this in the early morning hours of a busy day, I can feel the tension loosening in my shoulders.
It’s not too late to start Advent because Advent starts in our heart.
And that can begin right now.
Bring the story of Jesus’ birth to light in an easy, hands-on way with the family Advent devotion Countdown to Christmas. Build your Nativity one piece each day for 15 days along with scripture, a daily reading and prayer to unwrap the real Christmas story with your family.
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