Since the fourth century, the Church has celebrated the season of Advent (which means “coming” or “arrival”) starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day. The celebration of Advent helps us focus our attention on Jesus Christ’s birth and ministry as well as his promised return.
Throughout the season we are constantly reminded that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.
Perhaps the most popular tradition associated with the season is the use of an Advent calendar to mark the month of December. Modern Advent calendars typically include 24 “windows” that are opened (one per day) to reveal a poem, portion of Scripture, story, picture or small gift. As more windows are opened, expectancy increases in awaiting the final day, which represents the first advent of Christ.
Another popular tradition involves the use of an Advent candle or candles. This symbolic tradition is borrowed from the emphasis throughout Scripture of Jesus Christ being the light of the world (Matthew 4:16; John 1:4-9, 8:12). Those using one candle burn a little each day to mark the progression of the season. Each day a bit more of the candle is burned to symbolize the anticipation of Christmas. Others use a wreath with five candles in the middle. Each week a new candle is lit in anticipation of the final lighting on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Additionally, you often see an emphasis on particular colors in the celebration of Advent. Whereas modern Christmas celebrations focus on red and green, the historical colors of Advent are purple (symbolizing royalty) and blue (symbolizing hope). Given the association of purple with Easter and Lent, modern Advent celebrations often emphasize blue.
This guide was created out of a desire to focus on the whole gospel at a time when we usually focus only on the birth of Christ. Celebrating His birth is a very good thing but if we don't understand why He came, then we are really just celebrating the birth of a cute little Jewish boy. I pray that you and your family will be able to benefit from this as you focus on Christ during this busy, sometimes hectic, season. May God bless you as you lead your family in the worship of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!
My family uses the 5 candles in a circle along with a wreath. You don't have to use a wreath if you don't want one. We usually do just for tradition's sake. All you really need are 5 candles. Place them on your dining room table or other prominent place with four in a circle and one in the middle. Every night at supper you light the candle for that week and any candles that came before it in previous weeks (i.e. for all of week one you light only the one candle every night, all of week two you light two candles every night, etc.). The candles can be all the same color or multi-colored to help you remember what each candle's name is. Each time you light a candle ask your kids the candle's name and of what it reminds us.
This guide incorporates the use of “The Jesus Storybook Bible”* by Sally Lloyd Jones and “The Gospel Story Bible”** by Marty Machowski. These are great, Christ-centered, storybook Bibles that point to Christ throughout the entire Bible. If you don't have them, I encourage you to get them and begin this season using them with this guide. Although there are devotionals with Scripture references and questions apart from “The Jesus Storybook Bible” and “The Gospel Story Bible,” I believe they will help your children make sense of it all.
There should be enough material here (in this guide) to give your family something to do or discuss 3-5 nights a week (or every night if you wish) for the entire Advent Season. My family will usually do something from the guide 3 or 4 nights a week. We don't always have an “organized” (used loosely with 3 little kids around) devotion, but we always light the candle(s) for the week and say their names and of what they remind us.
Read through each week ahead of time. You may want to use all the verses listed as you talk about it, or you may want to only choose one for each set of Scripture references listed. For example, in week 3 there are four verses listed when talking about Jesus' mission to save sinners. The devotionals and the storybook Bible stories are meant to give you a starting place for discussion. They are short by design. So, feel free to take the discussion in any direction you sense God leading you for your family.
The discussion questions are designed for younger children. Each question has a few suggested answers you are looking for. If you have older kids or teenagers, I suggest you look ahead and spend some time reading through the guide and think of your own age-appropriate questions. Or if you don't like the questions provided, come up with your own that would better suit your family. Older children should be able to help out with Scripture and story reading and prayer. “The Gospel Story Bible” also has it's own set of questions for each story that you can use.
Again, this is just a guide, so feel free to download it, change it (add your own references and questions, etc.), and share it however you like. Don't make the mistake I did when I first started doing “Family Worship Time.” I thought everything had to be rigid and structured. That is exhausting! Structure has it's place, but Family Worship Times should be times where the focus is on prayer, the Bible, worship, and talk about Jesus. That's it. They can be as structured or as relaxed as you choose.
* They have also made each story available in Audio and Video versions when you purchase the “Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition.”
** Marty Machowski also has two companion volumes that work through the Old and New Testaments respectively. They offer further study into the stories and great discussion questions. They are “Old Story New” (New Testament) and “Long Story Short” (Old Testament).
For a longer list of helpful books on the topic of Christian Parenting you can visit my website at biblicalmen.com and click on the “Recommended Reading” resource.
Week 1 - Prophecy, Promises, & Waiting
Week 2 - Christ's Birth-The First Advent
Week 3 - Christ's Life, Death, and Our Salvation-The Reason He Came
Week 4 - Resurrection, Return and Restoration-He Will Come Again
Week 5 - Watching and Waiting-We are on Mission
Also at the end are a few lists of helpful resources and suggestions.