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The wonder and challenge of Advent

“Watching, waiting, awakening a birth of new hope.” Advent Chant by Phil Porter & Elaine Kirkland

This weekend my partner and I made Christmas fruitcake. Over the years I have come to associate this act of preparation with the arrival of Advent. We are little early this year, but checking over the recipe and gathering the ingredients caused me to think about the Advent season and the ways in which we celebrate it.

Advent is a season of waiting and preparing. It is intended to provide us with time and space to reflect, pray, dream, and hope as we wait for the coming of the holy child in the manger. At least that’s the theory! In their book “Living the Christ Life: Rediscovering the Seasons of the Christian Year” Louise Mangan & Nancy Wyse comment

“What a wonderful time of year, and what a challenge! In this age of neon Santas and so many ‘me first’ wish books, how can we find a quiet expectancy and await with hope the gift of Jesus Christ?”

This is a good question! How do we help children and their families find creative ways of celebrating Advent? How can we enable them to find that quiet place of expectancy in the midst of overfull schedules and lengthy “to do lists?” How can we do this without overburdening our volunteers, so that they too can experience a season of joyful anticipation?

Perhaps in these next few weeks it might be helpful for those of us engaged in Christian education to look carefully at the way we “do Advent.” Do the activities that demand our time and energy honor the intention of Advent? What might need to change? What cherished traditions might we need to let go? What would stay the same?

Over the years I have heard parents express their desire to lead their family in some of the rich traditions that Advent offers, yet many feel overwhelmed by busy schedules and the demands of the build up to Christmas. Perhaps we could address those needs if we let go of traditional Sunday school or Christmas pageant rehearsals for four weeks and held Sunday morning gatherings where families could engage in Advent activities together. These could include things like

  • Crafting advent wreaths or chains to use at home.
  • Making nativity sets
  • Baking Christmas treats to take to shut ins
  • Designing Christmas cards
  • Creating gingerbread stables
  • Re-enacting the stories of the annunciation, the angel coming to Joseph, and the joyful meeting of Mary and Elizabeth
  • Putting together collages that express the hopes of the prophets
  • Singing Advent carols
  • Writing prayers

I know that means that parents will be pulled away from the worship services and the church congregation may miss the Christmas pageant. Still it would provide an opportunity for families to enjoy some Advent time together and that might be one of the best gifts we have to offer them as we start a new church year.

What ideas do you have? What activities are you planning for Advent? How will you help children and families as they prepare to welcome Jesus?

Sharon Harding

About Sharon Harding

I was born in England and immigrated to Canada almost 30 years ago. A graduate of Gloucestershire University (B.Ed.), I have been involved in children’s ministry since I was 16. Over the past 12 years I have written for a variety of Christian Education curriculum resources. I also write a blog at encouraging parents to build strong connections with their children. When I am not working I enjoy painting, reading, and pottering around the Internet.
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  • Sharon Harding