SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 28: The Christmas season officially begins today for Western Christians, as today is the first Sunday of Advent. Each day until Christmas, families will reflect on the coming Nativity and prepare themselves in various ways. This also is the start of a new liturgical year.
(Eastern Christians began their traditional Nativity Fast in mid-November.)
CHURCH SLOWLY SET TRADITIONS
Looking back into the history of Christianity, Advent was a tradition slow in the making. In early centuries, informal events dedicated to something like Advent sprang up in various European countries before the season was formalized. (For more history visit CatholicEducation.org.) It wasn’t until Pope St. Gelasius I—a little more than 1,500 years ago—that Advent liturgies became available, and Pope St. Gregory I expanded on the liturgies by creating prayers, readings and responses.
CULTURE AND CHRISTMAS COLLIDE
Stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit through the end of December for creative and inspiring ideas to help you sort out the cultural challenges of Advent, a.k.a. “the Christmas season.” Here’s a fresh example: TV networks tend to portray the holiday differently than it’s celebrated in many Christian families. This weekend, we reviewed both the latest Debbie Macomber novel, “Call Me Mrs. Miracle,” and the Christmas-movie-version of the book debuting on the Hallmark Channel. The two tales are quite different, including the amount of faith in the mix. Check out our review to appreciate the dual holiday messages.
Have you seen the newest “Advent Calendars” families are opening this year? These are day-by-day calendars holding some little surprise for each day until December 25—sometimes a tiny bit of the Christmas story, or perhaps a piece of candy, or … Well, this year, there are iPhone and iPad Advent Apps for each day until Christmas. One iPad Advent App is filled with traditional Christmas carols; but another is merely a collection of holiday games involving snow, Santa and secular symbols. In toystores and some bookstores this year, there’s even a LEGO Advent Calendar with a tiny toy to build each day! Lutheran pastor, parent and author Amy Zeittlow tackles both LEGO and Advent for Huffington Post.
If you’re a Leggo fan, you can order the new LEGO City Advent Calendar from Amazon now.
CREATE AN ADVENT WREATH FOR YOUR FAMILY
Today, Christians often mark Advent with an Advent Wreath that bears four candles—sometimes with a fifth candle in the center. Traditionally, one fresh candle is lit each Sunday before Christmas. Depending on your family’s tradition, the candles may be named for special weekly themes in Christian teaching. The colors of the candles may hold significance as well. Ask leaders in your congregation about customs in your denomination, so your family Advent wreath matches what kids are seeing and hearing in church each week.
To help you enjoy a range of wreath ideas:
- Wikipedia has an overview of the practice with photos.
- ChurchYear provides sample readings and ideas from a Catholic perspective.
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America explains contemporary themes for ELCA families.
- United Methodist Church includes suggested music and readings (and printable PDFs).
- Presbyterian Church USA also has Advent readings (and printable PDFs).
Got your own favorite Advent resources? Email us at [email protected] and share your best ideas with other readers!