Advent – Anticipating the Coming

Jonathan and I come from a church tradition that does not not embrace the celebration of Advent. Yet, over the last several years, two Advent traditions in particular have deepened and enriched our savoring of the Christmas season, and of the grand story of Redemption itself.

You can get a glimpse of our little journey if you click on “Advent” in the category cloud. I also thought I would share a bit about the Advent traditions that have become so meaningful to our family.

The Advent Wreath:
The basic physical layout of the wreath is four smaller candles (one for each week of Advent) surrounding a central white candle (the Christ candle, to remain unlit until Christmas Day). The candles are usually entwined with greenery or placed in an actual wreath. Usually, three of the surrounding candles are purple, while one is pink (to express Joy, a traditional them for week 3). Blue seems to be easier to find than purple in taper candles, which is what we use, so ours are often blue and pink. Some use blue and red. More important is the focusing theme for each week.

Each of the four weeks of Advent has a theme, which differ according to varying church traditions. During the first week, one of the surrounding candles is lit as the theme for that week is highlighted. In each of the following weeks, another candle is lit, so that during week 4, all four candles are lit while the wreath is in use.

Our Advent themes are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. In the evening after supper, we light the candle(s), read related Scripture, and sing related songs (carols, other hymns, Scripture songs, etc). Because we are not part of a church tradition that uses this tool, we have developed our own eclectic version. It is a time of quiet reflection (punctuated this year by little outbursts of energy from our darling three-year-old-in-need-of-training) that helps to ground us during a time of year when it is so easy to be distracted.

There are many websites that might be helpful if you are interested in learning more about Advent Wreaths. I’ve done a lot of searching as we’ve settled into our our family wreath tradition.

The Jesse Tree:
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:1-2

The Jesse Tree tradition is a tool that traces the Story of Redemption from Creation to the Coming of the Savior. Each day of Advent (or, in our house, as often as we can manage), the participants look at another piece of the tapestry that the Father wove in preparation for the coming of the Son. It is breathtaking to watch His plan unfold.

Each day, an ornament representing the day’s event is placed on the Jesse Tree. This can be a branch that you stick in a pot, an evergreen tree, or a tree formed on the wall by the ornaments themselves. One year we used a leftover giant campaign sign and painted our tree on the back side. The particulars are not a smidgen as important as the Story.

We are enjoying a new aid for our Jesse Tree this year, from Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience. There is a link on the righthand sidebar of her blog to a wonderful free ebook for the Jesse Tree. It gets right to the heart of the matter. So much so that I struggle to read through without tears of gratitude.

We have other “Christmas traditions,” but these two Advent tradtions have become a priceless part of the season for us. They are tools that we intentionally choose to use to calm and focus our hearts and minds. They make our anticipation and celebration richer and fuller.

What Advent/Christmas traditions aid you in focusing on the Grand Story?

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Genene
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 08:31:25

    I enjoyed reading how your family has developed/evolved your Advent observation. In retrospect, I can’t help wishing we had observed something like this when you and Eric were growing up.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Christmas/Advent Thoughts « Grace and Glory

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