The holiday season is here, and I have a point to make. Advent is the best part of the holiday season! Advent is my favorite part of the holidays because Advent is for everyone no matter what your beliefs are. It doesn’t matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan, Hindi, or any other religious tradition. Advent is for atheists and those who consider themselves to be more spiritual than religious. Advent is more than a calendar full of chocolates. Its more than counting down the days until Christmas. Its more. So. Much. More.
These days the holiday season begins with Halloween. It rushes past Thanksgiving and boom! We’re into Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, etc. We’re busy shopping, cooking, baking, going to parties, wrapping gifts, and decorating. As a result we can become overwhelmed. Consequently, stress and anxiety run high, and the holidays feel more like a month long to-do list. For this reason, we need to slow down and take time to enjoy the experiences of the holidays if we want memories that truly last.
Advent is an opportunity to take a break from our to do lists and center ourselves. Each week of Advent we light one of four candles. Each candle represents a symbol – hope, faith, joy, and peace. These are things we all need more of in our lives. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means “coming” or “visit.” Advent on the Christian calendar is a time that is meant for us to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent for everyone is a time to pause from the constant busyness of the holidays and reflect on the things that matter most. Things that can’t be bought in a store.
Ordinarily, churches hold an Advent service on Wednesday evenings. I’m Lutheran, and we love to pot luck. Wednesday services are usually preceded by a potluck supper. The worship service focuses on the week’s topic and associated bible stories. If your church or house of worship doesn’t offer an Advent service look around for one that does. My church doesn’t hold a weekly Advent service, so I’ll be visiting another church in town on Wednesday evenings for their Advent services. Its okay to visit another church! God won’t smite me.
If you’re not Christian or even religious you can still practice Advent. Pick a night of the week that you and your family can gather together to celebrate. Invite your friends. Put away your phones and tablets. Turn off the TV and the music. Gather around the table. Light a candle and and talk about the first week’s topic – hope. Similarly, each week light another candle and share the next topic – faith, joy, and peace. What examples of these have you noticed this past year? How can we have more of these things? Traditionally, Advent candles are two purple candles for weeks one and two, a pink candle during week 3, and another purple candle for week 4. You can follow this tradition, or chose your own colors. In fact, let your kids chose the colors!
Celebrating Advent is a great way to bring more joy into the holiday season. Making time for deliberate and even prayerful reflecton helps us to be more calm, centered, and present over the weeks leading up to Christmas.
So, give it a try! turn the hectic season of the holidays into a gift rather than a to-do list by celebrating Advent.