I have always been someone who counts everything in my life. The number of years I’ve lived in Delhi - 21, the number of houses I have lived in so far - 25, the number of weeks since my last hug - 90. 🙁 I also count in anticipation; the number of weeks until my vacation, the number of hours until the weekend, and at this time of year, the number of days until Christmas. There is something about anticipation that makes things sweeter.
Advent (which means coming) has become one of the ways that I anticipate celebrating Christmas. The processes of counting down and reflecting on what God has done in the gift of Christ’s birth helps ensure that I don’t miss the blessing of celebrating Christmas.
Traditionally the church kept Advent (a season of fasting and reflecting) over the four weeks before Christmas. Then December 25 began 12 days of celebration ending in the feast of Epiphany on January 6th. Epiphany commemorates the coming of the Magi when Jesus was an infant. Over the centuries, our focus has shifted. Most Christmas celebrations happen during December; sadly, this can mean that in the busyness of parties, programs and events, we miss the opportunity to truly anticipate Jesus’ coming.
So what can we do to ensure that we have time and space to anticipate Jesus’ coming?
I have found three things that help increase my sense of anticipation and waiting during Advent.
Read an Advent devotional each day.
These devotional aren’t simply reading the Christmas story, instead, they focus on the process of waiting for Jesus to come. Some start with the first Sunday of Advent (in 2021 it is November 28th) while others start on December 1st. Choose what works best for you.
Some of your options include
There are also lots available from online bookstores in both paper and eBook formats.
An Advent calendar
As a child, this was one of my favourite things to do each day during advent was to mark off a day on our advent calendar. I would run in the door from school begging my mum if I could cross off the date. The calendar can be as simple as the numbers 25 through 1 on a piece of paper, but why not take the opportunity to add a verse to read each day, or perhaps think about doing something nice for someone else as part of the count down. For those of you who are artistic or crafty, there are lots of “make it yourself” versions online. If you have kids around make this something that you do together it will build some great memories for them.
Some churches will use a set of candles to mark the weeks of advent and you can do this at home as well Five candles are used and are often placed in a stand or wreath. Traditionally three candles are purple, one pink and one white (but you can use whatever colours you want). Each week a new candle is lit as part of looking forward to Christmas and each stands for the week’s theme.
There are again plenty of resources online to help you decide how to make use of this practice, but there is something about lighting a candle each Sunday that prepares my heart to rejoice.
Each of these simple practices has one thing in common, they are a deliberate act of preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ child. In a world where Christmas is highjacked by consumerism, secularism and busyness they provide an opportunity for us to reclaim the Christmas season as part of our loving God and loving others.
In our instant world, anticipation is something we often miss out on. This Advent I encourage you to take the time with me to raise your level of anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s coming.
And if you have any favourite Advent resources post them in the comments below.